Experienced Lions can handle the pressure - Warburton

By Christopher Devine

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Sam Warburton believes experience of must-win Six Nations matches will serve the British and Irish Lions well when they bid to keep their Test series with New Zealand alive on Saturday.


The Lions need to triumph in Wellington in order to force a series decider, after being beaten 30-15 at Eden Park last weekend.

Tour captain Warburton, restored to the starting XV for the second Test at the expense of Peter O’Mahony, does not expect the pressure to get to his side.

“The guys have been through that before in Six Nations matches,” said the Wales flanker. “You don’t really get it in the autumn or summer series, but in the Six Nations there’s lots of games I’ve gone into from a Welsh perspective, where you know if you lose this one you’re gonna be out of title contention.

“So the players have all been through that before with their national teams and went through it four years ago in the third [Lions] Test against Australia. Guys are used to that pressure.

“It’s nice – you’re doing the team session today and you see the group of 23 and they’re such a classy group of players. Those guys can take a lot of pressure and it won’t faze them. We’ve got a very good team, a very experienced side and they’ll be able to deal with anything that’s thrown at them.”

Discussing his own return to the starting XV, Warburton added: “I’m delighted with the selection for this week. It was probably the most nervous I’ve been going into a team selection meeting.


“I really didn’t know what was going to happen. I thought some guys played absolutely brilliantly on Tuesday and could have come straight into the Test team, which we saw happened last week. So I was very nervous about the selection and which direction they were gonna go, but I’m absolutely delighted that I’m starting in the Test series.

“There’s not a single player you could name now who’s a shoo-in for all three Tests. That’s just a credit to the strength of the squad that we’ve got and as captain you’ve got to accept that going into the tour. 

“That’s one thing I quickly accepted – I perceived it as a tour captain role, not a Test captain role, and I had to earn my spot to get in the Test team.”

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Experienced Lions can handle the pressure - Warburton