Warburton welcomes pressure to perform
August 12, 2012
Sam Warburton steered Wales to Six Natins Grand Slam glory earlier this year © Getty Images
Wales skipper Sam Warburton has admitted he is under pressure to not only retain the captaincy of the side but also his place in the team.
The 23-year-old steered Wales to a Six Nations Grand Slam earlier this year but then saw his side slip to a 3-0 series defeat to Australia and has since seen his credentials questioned with Ospreys rival Justin Tipuric tipped by many to assume the Wales No.7 shirt. It is a challenge that Warburton has been expecting and on that he welcomes.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't under pressure, but it is great that we have someone like Justin," Warburton told the Western Mail. "I played with him in the under-20s and on the sevens circuit and I've seen him come through the Ospreys academy, I knew what a talent he was before anyone else did.
"It didn't surprise me when the Ospreys named him captain because he is a very influential figure, a very professional guy who gets on with everybody. He is a great player and it is great for us as a nation to have a lot of competition for places.
"A few years ago people said we had just a strong XV, but now we have a strong 30. Great Welsh players seem to be coming through the system."
Ahead of what is sure to be another gruelling campaign, Warburton is determined to manage his body accordingly with a place on the British & Irish Lions' tour of Australia next summer a near-certain prospect.
"It is difficult because I don't want to jinx myself," he said of his possible Lions inclusion. "It is a bit of a cliche, but I just want to take each game as it comes. As long as I can stay fit and play well I'm in with a shout and that's my priority this season, to stay on the pitch.
"People talk about the Lions, but a lot can happen before then. There are big games to play for the Blues first, then hopefully Wales and so on. It's one step at a time."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
With the World Cup just a year away, ESPN picks out five matches to watch
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup