'I found myself kissing my Lions jersey the other day'
June 21, 2013
Lions skipper Sam Warburton poses at the Suncorp Stadium ahead of his side's first Test clash against Australia on Saturday © Getty Images
British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton cannot wait for the "biggest moment" of his career - his side's first Test showdown with Australia on Saturday night.
Warburton will spearhead the Lions' quest for a first series victory since 1997 and insists that his side's eagerly-anticipated opener in Brisbane will eclipse Wales' recent Grand Slam glory and Rugby World Cup semi-final against Australia in 2011 as the pinnacle of his career. And the 24-year-old flanker has offered an intriguing insight into his emotions ahead of the pivotal clash at the Suncorp Stadium.
"I have been thinking about tomorrow since I was 14 years old," he told The Daily Telegraph. "It will be the biggest moment of my career, without a doubt. I thought leading Wales out against France in the World Cup semi-final and in the Grand Slam match of 2012 were special, but this will top them all."
However, the world famous Lions shirt has already had a significant impact on Warburton. "All in all this is going to be a special weekend, for sure; a proud one, too, of course -- that is why I found myself kissing my Lions jersey the other day as I was packing it up for another flight," he said.
"It was the one I wore for the first half of my debut against Queensland Reds (we get jerseys for each half and I swapped my second-half ones against Queensland and the Waratahs with my opposite numbers). "
Warburton has also revealed he will not script any rallying call for the changing room before the game - preferring instead to let the moment dictate what he says to his players. "I suppose people will be wondering what my message will be come the last minutes in the changing room tomorrow evening here. And my honest answer is that I do not know.
"One thing I have learnt as captain is not to worry about that sort of stuff. When I started as Wales captain, I sometimes used to plan what I was going to say. But too often when the time came it did not feel natural. So now I just wait until the moment and gauge what I feel needs to be said."
In a fascinating insight into his pre-match routine, Warburton added: "I usually sit down on the bench and listen to my music, and I let the louder members of the squad be more vocal in gearing the boys up. So tomorrow, guys like Paul O'Connell, Brian O'Driscoll and Alun Wyn Jones will be doing that. I let them have their input and then I will finish things off just before we go out."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The latest Week in Pictures brings you a selection of the best snaps from around the rugby world with scantily clad ladies, O'Driscoll and snow all featuring
"If I miss the first kick of the match, it shouldn't have any impact on the second. They are different entities." Tom Hamilton talks to Northampton Saints' Stephen Myler
It's time for those running Welsh rugby to stop trying to prevent its players heading to France and to start planning a future without them, writes Martin Williamson
Paul Eddison explains how the French sold English clubs down the river and why their domestic game will go from strength to strength