‘Warren brings experience’ – Warburton

Date published: September 9 2016

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Sam Warburton has praised the appointment of Warren Gatland as the British and Irish Lions head coach for next year's tour to New Zealand.

Gatland was on Wednesday named boss for the second successive tour, following on from being forwards coach in 2009's visit to South Africa.

And that has pleased Warburton, who feels it is the correct decision due to Gatland's wealth of experience on significant tours such as these.

"Warren brings experience and the fact he has been on a winning Lions tour already. And he was the forwards coach in South Africa before that and unlucky not to do a bit better out there," he told the WRU website.

"The one thing that I remember from the Lions tour in 2013 is that we were all told as players to appreciate the history of the jersey and I think Warren has got a head start from that point of view with two tours under his belt."

Warburton and Gatland have been a partnership for several years now for the Welsh national team and recently travelled to New Zealand for three Tests. Despite losing those games, Warburton feels the All Blacks are beatable.

"New Zealand are clearly the best team in the world over the past 10 years, but that doesn't mean you can't beat them. Any team is beatable, that's sport," he added.

"They have shown in their last two games why they are the best team in the world. But they have shown consistently, year after year that they are a fantastic side.

"I've said it before when people have pointed out they are missing experienced players. You only have to look at Nick Williams, who is playing here at Cardiff Blues, that they have unbelievable strength in depth.

"You might take out an experienced player, but they never lose talent because their playing pool is so strong. They could probably pick up 10 injuries and still be one of the competitors to win the World Cup – they will always be a fantastic team."

With the head coach now appointed, the next debate will be who is best suited to captain the British and Irish Lions against the All Blacks, a question Warburton is certainly in the frame for should he be named in the squad.

"Everybody would love to go on the tour, that's a given. But if you sit down and have the mindset that you are going, and suddenly you have shoulder reconstruction or whatever, and you don't go, the bottom can fall out of your world," he said.

"You don't want to think too much like that. Don't get your hopes up and think too far ahead because the tour is such a long way away.

"There will be players who play fantastically well at the start of the season, yet come the end of season awards in April or May they won't get recognised. You would love it to happen, but you have to prioritise your club and then country – there is a long road to negotiate and I don't think players will be focusing on that until 2017."

He added: "As with so many life experiences, if you fully commit yourself, and throw yourself into them, they never turn out to be as bad as you feared. That would be my advice to anyone who is named as captain – just throw yourself into it 100 percent.

"It can seem like a daunting task, but you will love it. Once you get your hands on it, and come to terms with it all, you realise it is such a massive honour.

"It is probably the most pressure I have ever been under, but I came out of it on the other side fine. What I learned is that sometimes you have to go out of your comfort zone to achieve things.

"You are definitely taken out of your comfort zone if you are picked as Lions captain because it is such a high-profile role with all the media commitments and commercial obligations. Then you have the playing side – it's a big responsibility.

"You always think things are going to be worse than they actually are so you have to throw yourself into these situations. Anyone who is offered the job should grab it with both hands because it is a fantastic experience."

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