Warburton ignoring Lions talk
February 19, 2013
Sam Warburton will not start for Wales against Italy © Getty Images
Wales flanker Sam Warburton is adamant that his focus is solely on the Six Nations and the British & Irish Lions tour is not on his radar at the moment.
Warburton will not start for Wales against Italy on Saturday with interim coach Rob Howley opting to start the same XV that defeated France on February 9. That team saw Justin Tipuric getting the nod at openside while Ryan Jones packed down at blindside.
Warburton is expected to be on the bench, if he has recovered from the shoulder injury that forced him out of the reckoning for the clash with Les Bleus, and his absence from the XV is deemed by some to come as a huge blow for his Lions aspirations.
But Warburton will not allow himself to be distracted by any Lions matters, especially during a Six Nations campaign.
"It's something I will just have to bat off," he said. "I have got enough on my plate at the moment. It (Lions selection) is going to be, for any player involved, a special moment. But no-one is mentioning the 'L word'. The focus in this Six Nations camp is purely on the next match, and if there was any talk on that (Lions), players would be the first ones to give someone a slap in the face."
Howley took the slightly unusual decision to confirm his XV for the clash with the Azzurri well in advance of the match, but Warburton believes it was the correct decision.
"It was a great win out in France - I thought the team were absolutely awesome," he added. "And I thought it was good when they announced the team early because it has given us extra time to prepare.
"It was quite a smart call and we might as well take advantage of this two-week break in Six Nations games. We have had eight or 10 sessions, rather than maybe three, perhaps. It should be one of the best-prepared we have been for a match because we have had that extra time together."
© 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