British & Irish Lions
Warburton determined to do things his way
May 27, 2013
Lions captain Sam Warburton is confident he will find his own leadership style © PA Photos
British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton has vowed to stick to his laidback leadership style during his side's quest for a series victory over Australia.
The 24-year-old Warburton is the youngest Lions captain in nearly sixty years, and the first Welshman to have the honour since Phil Bennett in 1977, but he is far from daunted by the prospect and feels no obligation to tap into the knowledge of his predecessors or more experienced team-mates.
"I'm probably too laid back for my own good," Warburton told The Daily Telegraph. "I don't study leadership, I don't look for guidance, I just try to act naturally. People can over-complicate things: leadership, rugby, any walk of life. One of the best pieces of advice I had was just be yourself. It sounds very simple, but think about what it means."
Warburton is also well aware the captaincy does not come with any guarantee despite his familiarity with coach Warren Gatland who made him Wales' skipper in 2001. He knows he must fight for a place in Gatland's plans but he is confident that the pressure to perform will bring out the best in him and ensure he packs down for the eagerly-anticipated showdown with Wallabies.
"I'm at my best when I'm backed into a corner," he said. "I need to feel those butterflies in my stomach that come if you think you're not going to be picked. That's why when Warren first asked me to be Wales captain, I really wasn't sure. I don't like being singled out. I don't want to be closer to the coaches than the other players, I think everyone should have the same relationship."
Warburton also offered an insight into Gatland's reasoning behind his decision to make the Blues flanker his skipper ahead of more experienced rivals Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell. Warburton said: "Warren showed me some video of my behaviour on the pitch, the way I was communicating, the way I'd go in for a big hit when the lads' chins were down, and he said: 'That's leadership.' It was those traits he wanted more than being able to give a good speech in the dressing room. Leading by example is the term everyone uses."
But don't expect Warburton to stand and deliver epic speeches pre-game. "I'll be one of the quietest captains the Lions have had, I'm sure. I'm not a motivator, I'm not one for the up-and-at-'em speech.
"I'll speak for no more than 30 seconds. And a lot of that will be tactical, making sure players know what their role is in the first five minutes. Make a mistake in that time and it could have massive consequences. I leave the head banging to the front five."
However, he will take a leading role in ensuring the squad bonds together. "Getting the lads to gel is a big part of the job," he said. "One thing Warren is keen on is a choir. Get the Irish, Scottish, English songs going. The Welsh boys love singing. They don't need a second invitation. They don't even need a second pint. But I think for my part, bonding will be as much about sitting down for a coffee with a lad who is maybe feeling a bit detached as organising any social committee. That's a big threat to us: someone not feeling part of it."
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