Warburton's bold prediction for Wales' tour of South Africa
Wayne Pivac’s side slipped to a fifth-place finish in this year’s Guinness Six Nations and will now do battle with the Springboks on a tough-looking three-Test tour.
Former Wales skipper Warburton, who racked up 74 caps between 2009 and 2017, knows the men in red have a habit of delivering when the chips are down and says winning one Test match can lay down a statement ahead of next year’s World Cup.
The 33-year-old said: “They’ve got a three-Test series in South Africa and I think one away win is achievable.
“There’s a lot of negative press going around saying about how many injuries they’re going to have, but when the squad was actually announced, I looked at it and I thought that the field’s going to be really strong and really good.
“There’s something about Wales that when the chips are down, everyone writes them off, but we are better than what people think.
“Of course South Africa are going to be red-hot favourites to win the Test series, but I do fancy Wales for one victory.
“It’s going to be arguably the hardest summer tour we’ve had for a long time, but if Wales can get one victory out of three, that will be successful.”
Boss Pivac announced a 33-man squad for the South African tour last month before this week adding 21-year-old prop Harri O’Connor to his ranks.
Wales suffered a shock 22-21 defeat against minnows Italy in the final round of this year’s Guinness Six Nations but former flanker Warburton, a two-time Championship winner in 2012 and 2013, believes they can bounce back in style this summer.
“It’s a strange one – I haven’t seen Wales lose to Italy since I was a young boy, so you have very proud records against certain teams,” he added.
“I was so disappointed as a Welshman and as a fan, just gutted for the players and coaches because I know them and I work with them as a player and as a coach, so you know how much effort you put into those.
“But, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I made plenty of mistakes in my career, much worse than what they did in the Six Nations.
“So, I think if Wales can bounce back and have a really good, respectable campaign in South Africa and then slowly start building towards the World Cup.
“I’m always glass half-full and think things happen for a reason – I think it will sharpen the mind of the Welsh team and they will come back better.”
Land Rover ambassador Warburton was speaking at this season’s Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final, where he met hundreds of youngsters from the national grassroots initiative, the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup.
Warburton’s positive mentality spanned over all aspects of the Welsh team as the rugby icon reflected on the difficulties Pivac continues to face as an international coach.
He said: “Wales have adopted a slightly different style. I worked with [Pivac] for a year as a coach and I really liked him, which is why Wales have kept faith in him and it’s a learning experience for everybody involved in that Welsh team.
“Even someone like Warren Gatland, who’s been an enormous success in Wales, there were some quiet years in those 10 years as well and then people would be calling for his head.
“I know it’s tough for the Welsh public but I just say: be a bit patient and we are going to be in a period of transition.
“We might not have immediate success but if you’re putting the right building blocks in place then in a few years’ time we should be back to where we were.”
Sam Warburton is a Land Rover ambassador. For more information on the new Range Rover visit landrover.co.uk
By Megan Armitage, Sportsbeat
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