Wednesday 21 February 2018

Warburton: I don't think we've seen the last of Quade Cooper

British and Irish Lions' Sam Warburton is denied a first half try
British and Irish Lions' Sam Warburton is denied a first half try

Nick Mulvenny

Warburton made his Lions debut last weekend against the Queensland Reds in Brisbane, helping the tourists to a 22-12 victory against an inspired team led by Cooper.

Speaking at the grave of the man now recognised as the first Lions skipper not far from where the tourists play against Combined Country later on Tuesday, Warburton said he thought it was possibly not the end of Cooper's involvement in the tour.

"I haven't really watched enough Super Rugby to comment on the Australians, but having played against Quade, I know he's top class player and I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up in the Australia squad," he told reporters.

Warburton's predecessor Robert Seddon led the first Lions team to Australian and New Zealand in 1888 but drowned when his skiff capsized on the Hunter River in Maitland near Newcastle in the middle of the tour.

The Lions captain, tour manager Andy Irvine and centre Manu Tuilagi joined local dignitaries on Tuesday to lay wreaths at the grave, which is beautifully maintained by the local Maitland Rugby Club.

"We're very honoured to be here," Warburton said. "It makes you realise how long it's been going on for and it makes you realise what you've achieved."

Warburton was delighted to be able to pay his respects to Seddon but said he would not have liked to emulate the 1888 tourists in playing 19 games of Australian Rules on the tour as well as the rugby matches.

"I've got a godmother in Brisbane who is going to educate me in Aussie Rules and we're going to catch a game next time I'm there," he said. "But at the moment, I don't know much about it."

He reiterated, however, that he would like to emulate the first Lions party of 125 years ago by going through the tour unbeaten.

"It's something I've said from day one," he added. "It's going to be a massive effort but it's something I'm confident we can achieve.

"If we can do that, it would be one of the most, if not the most, successful Lions tour."

Seddon was interviewed before he died and said he thought the Australian players his team had faced were a bit soft, not a view Warburton would share after his experience at Lang Park last weekend.

"After the Queensland match, that's definitely not the case," he laughed. "It was the toughest game we've been through.

It was just what we needed. We'd rather have experienced that then and not in the first test."

The Lions return to Brisbane for that first test on June 22 and Warburton, who missed the first two matches because of a sore knee, said he was raring to go for the remainder of the tour.

"I'm good, the rest I had for a few weeks has worked wonders and the body feels fine and I look forward to the next match," he said, adding that he would be taking some precautions to ensure he did not end up suffering the same fate as poor Seddon.

"Some of the boys might end up on some fishing trips but I'll stay away from paddles," he said.


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