British & Irish Lions 2013: Sam Warburton ready to step up
British & Irish Lions 2013: Captain Sam Warburton says he is ready to lay down a marker against the Waratahs on Saturday
Sam Warburton admits he’s relishing lining up with new faces as he prepares for his second appearance on the British & Irish Lions tour to Australia.
Warburton leads the Lions for the second time from openside flanker, starting in the back row alongside England’s blindside Tom Croft and Ireland number eight Jamie Heaslip against the Waratahs in Sydney.
In his first appearance as a Lion, Warburton was in familiar company with compatriots Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau – the back row that proved instrumental guided Wales to the Six Nations Grand Slam in 2012.
But against the Waratahs, Lydiate provides the cover from the bench while Faletau, Ireland’s Sean O’Brien and Wales’ Justin Tipuric do not feature, highlighting the strength in depth in the back row department.
Warren Gatland has emphasised that all places remain up for grabs ahead of the first Test, in Brisbane in nine days’ time, and Warburton is enjoying mixing things up.
“It’s always nice to have game time,” said Warburton.
“I always think the more games I have, then the better I tend to play.
“It’s about getting your timing around the breakdown, in attack and defence, and the more games you play – within reason, obviously – the more you pick up a feel for the contact area and speed of the game.
“I’m really looking forward to playing with Tom and Jamie. Lineout-wise, Crofty is awesome in training, and Jamie is great in attack and as a ball carrier. You want to come on Lions tours and play with different combinations.”
Warburton is joined in the pack by fellow Welshmen and reigning Six Nations champions Adam Jones and Alun Wyn Jones while in the backs, Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies resume their partnership, Mike Phillips is at scrum-half and Leigh Halfpenny lines up at full-back.
Meanwhile, in Japan, Robin McBryde has made four changes to his side for the second Test with Japan, introducing Andries Pretorius and Josh Navidi, who makes his debut to the back row.
Prop Rhys Gill replaces Ryan Bevington while Tom Prydie is in for Dafydd Howells on the wing as Wales look to build on their 22-18 victory in the first Test.
“We were proud of the side’s effort last weekend but know we will have to step it up again on Saturday,” said McBryde.
“It was good to see the character of the squad come through in the first Test and we will need that again.”