British & Irish Lions
Warburton not taking Test place for granted
May 16, 2013
Sam Warburton joined his Lions team-mates for a conditioning camp in Wales this week © PA Photos
British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton has welcomed the battle he faces to earn a place in the side that will tackle Australia next month.
Warburton was handed the honour of leading the 37-man squad Down Under last month but it came with no guarantee when it comes to selection. But the Wales skipper is not fazed by the challenge and insists it will bring out the best in him.
"You don't want to become complacent and think you have got a starting place in the team," he told PA Sport. "I like it when you go into the team announcements and you are on the edge not knowing if you are going to get picked. Knowing that you might not be involved is what keeps you going in training and keeps you dedicated off the pitch as well."
Warburton linked up with the majority of his squad-mates this week at the Welsh Rugby Union's Vale of Glamorgan training facilities with those players involved in this weekend's European club finals and the culmination of the RaboDirect PRO12 and Aviva Premiership campaigns set to join them in the coming weeks - and the 24-year-old has been impressed by what he has seen.
"You wonder what it is going to be like, but we've had all the meet and greets, trying on all the kit - there was a monumental amount of kit to get through on Monday - and now we can get back to training," Warburton added. "The boys have gelled really quickly, as I thought and hoped they would.
"The schedule from a Lions point of view could be better, but we have just got to deal with what we've got at the moment. We've still got good numbers in training, so there are still plenty of options.
"What Warren has emphasised is that he feels he has a squad where everyone can compete for a Test starting XV place, and that's the best way to be, so everyone is on edge in training.
"Even just lifting weights and doing fitness work, you can tell people have lifted it from international level. The standard and the bar has been raised, and all the boys are gunning for those Test spots."
The squad will be based in Wales until Friday, before a weekend off and then reconvening for another week's camp, this time at the Ireland Test squad's training base near Dublin. "Ahead of the autumn internationals and Six Nations with Wales we only have two weeks' prep anyway," Warburton said. "There is a lot of onus on the players to do their analysis off the pitch, making sure we all know the calls.
"That's the easy stuff, sitting down in front of a laptop, doing your homework so when we come to training we hit the ground running. Momentum is key. There might be setbacks on the tour but it is about not panicking if they happen. As long as we learn from them and put things right for the next game, it is a good learning curve."
Looking ahead to what is set to be a gruelling tour, Warburton is well aware nothing will come easy. "I have been very impressed with the Australian sides in the Super Rugby tournament this year. The key players seem to be playing very well at the right time," Warburton added.
"Every time there is a Lions tour, the national side we are playing against - whether it is Australia, New Zealand or South Africa - always seem to come good in a Lions year, which shows how much it means to them."
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