Warburton dreaming of Lions honour
August 30, 2012
Sam Warburton is widely considered a favorite to lead the Lions to Australia next summer © Getty Images
Wales captain Sam Warburton may have steered his side to the Rugby World Cup semi-finals and the Six Nations Grand Slam in recent months but he is not taking anything for granted when it comes to the British & Irish Lions' tour to Australia next year.
With Wales coach Warren Gatland set to be confirmed as head coach for the Lions' first trip to Australia since 2001, the chances of the 23-year-old being on the plane Down Under look near-certain but his primary focus is staying fit and healthy after an injury-plagued season and only then will he consider the prospect of fulfilling a childhood dream and pulling on the Lions' world-famous red jersey.
"With me, it's always injuries permitting, really. I did well for the first six months of last season and then my body started creaking," he told Sportsvibe. "I missed a couple of Six Nations games and a lot of regional games and if that happens to me again this year, I won't be in contention.
"Trying to stay fit is going to be the number one priority for me this year. The medical staff at the Blues and Wales have done a great job so far. With their support, hopefully, that can open the door for me."
Warburton is well aware of Wales' proud history when it comes to the Lions and has long dreamt of following in the footsteps of the likes of Gareth Edwards, Barry John, JPR Williams, Mervyn Davies and John Taylor who all wore the red of Wales and the Lions with distinction.
"It's been at the back of my mind since I was a young boy really. I've always wanted to play for the Lions," he said. "My dad bought me a Lions shirt with the No.7 on the back when I was about 14. It's something I've always wanted to do but - although I'm not superstitious - I wouldn't want to jinx myself.
"Players who have had Lions status in Wales, I wouldn't say it makes them immortal but they're very highly thought of," added Warburton. I always give Leigh Halfpenny a lot of stick because he played for the Lions, but it's only because I'm envious.
"It's something that every player in Wales would love to do. It's obviously been a massive motivation of mine since the days when I was younger. If I was lucky enough to play for the Lions, I'd be absolutely over the moon but the first thing for me at the moment is making sure I get some club rugby under my belt."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
In the wake of another perfect November series, Monday Maul talks to NZRU CEO Steve Tew about the constant demand for perfection
The latest Week in Pictures takes in all the action from the weekend when rugby united behind Samoa
The Wallabies showed flair in Dublin, but they still have a way to go if they are to do more than make up the numbers at the World Cup, writes Greg Growden
England broke their losing streak, but this was not them clawing their way back among the best, writes Tom Hamilton