Friday 22 November 2019

Sam Warburton in line to lead British and Irish Lions again

Sam Warburton looks set to join England World Cup winner Martin Johnson as a two-time British and Irish Lions captain in New Zealand this summer.

The Wales flanker's expected appointment on Wednesday would see him lead the Lions on successive tours - as Johnson did in 1997 and 2001 - and become only the second player to do the job twice.

Although 28-year-old Warburton stepped down from the Wales captaincy ahead of this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship - lock and fellow Lion Alun Wyn Jones took over from him - he has been the bookmakers' Lions favourite for several weeks.

And Danny Wilson, Warburton's head coach at Cardiff Blues, has no doubt the Lions' 2013 tour skipper in Australia will lead by example.

"When you think of the Lions and the amount of top-quality players and leaders that they will have, there will be more than one guy leading the ship," Wilson said.

"There will be leaders right across all areas, on and off the field.

"What Sam brings as a leader is he leads by example. That is probably his biggest trait.

"His work ethic, his professionalism, the way he conducts himself on and off the field is an example that people follow."

Warburton is currently sidelined from playing because of a knee ligament strain suffered during the Blues' Guinness PRO12 clash against Ulster earlier this month.

But he could return to action before the Lions' departure for New Zealand on May 29, with the Blues facing a possible European Champions Cup qualification play-off final in just under six weeks' time.

"He may get an opportunity to play before he goes, but also he will be well looked after conditioning-wise," Wilson added.

"It's just a case of getting back on the bike, so to speak.

"If you think of Sam's rugby this season, he has probably played more rugby than he has in the last couple. In terms of miles on the clock, he will be in a good place.

"It will then be about him getting over a short period out of the game, as opposed to any real lengthy period.

"We have been pleased this year in terms of Sam's involvement for the Blues. He has played a lot of rugby this year, so in many ways a break might freshen him up a little bit."

Warburton has won 74 Wales caps, captaining his country in more than half of those games and being at the helm for World Cup campaigns in 2011 and 2015, when Wales reached the semi-finals and quarter-finals, respectively.

PA Media

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