Warburton says Lions not feeling the pressure

29 June 2017, 12:25

Sam Warburton (Lions)

Skipper Sam Warburton says the Lions aren't feeling the pressure, despite knowing they can't lose the second test with New Zealand.

The Lions captain admitted the tourists are hurting after their 30-15 loss in the first test against the All Blacks last weekend.

But Wales flanker Sam Warburton says he expects the Lions and New Zealand to use off-the-ball skirmishes to steal a mental edge in Saturday's second Test.

Warburton has taken the number six shirt and the captaincy off Peter O'Mahony for the second Test in Wellington, as the Lions battle to save the series.

The 28-year-old vowed the Lions will protect Conor Murray from New Zealand's roughhousing treatment when the Lions scrum-half box kicks, but insisted the Westpac Stadium clash is bound to be full of niggle from both sides.

"I've probably played almost 200 games of professional rugby and that happens every single game you play in," said Warburton, of off-the-ball incidents.

"It's the little mental edges that players like to get over each other.

"With the incident on Conor Murray, the forwards take that responsibility, and we should look after him better as a forward pack.

"But stuff off the ball goes on every game: there's no defending that but people try to get into each other, whether at ruck time or mauls.

"Referees can't see everything and you just accept that as players.

"That's all part of the psychological battle, not just before but during a match as well.

"Players are always going to wind each other up and get into each other. But it's all handshakes after a match.

"And I've spoken to most of the Kiwi guys, they are a great bunch of lads and no-one's taking anything personally.

"You play rugby because you enjoy the physical side, so when you come off second best there it does hurt you as a player.

"And we were beaten pretty well in the physical side of things in the first Test. So that's disappointing. And for that reason motivation won't be a factor this weekend.

"Guys will be looking forward to going back and trying to improve that area of the game.

"But credit to New Zealand, they took us on where we expected to be strong and they took away our threats. So now we have to find solutions.''

Warburton missed the opening Test after battling all tour to shake off an ankle problem picked up in the 13-7 Provincial Barbarians victory.

The Cardiff back-rower revealed he had never been more nervous when waiting to hear the Lions' second Test line-up.

O'Mahony has dropped out of the 23 altogether despite skippering the Lions last weekend, and now Warburton has admitted he will shoulder an extra burden to perform - to do justice to replacing the Munster stalwart.

"You always feel that responsibility to have a good performance," said Warburton.

"Selection is not necessarily always because someone is better than someone else - it might be a tactical decision.

"So the guys all know that whatever decision is made is because the coaches think it's the best thing for the team.

"When the team was named, Peter came up to me, shook my hand and congratulated me; but in fairness everybody does that.

"When we have selection meetings, they'll name the team, not much is said afterwards but everyone makes the effort to go up and congratulate each other.

"It's a really nice environment to be in. For me that hasn't really happened with your club or with your country, but for me everyone here is so supportive of each other, which is a really nice thing.

"This was the most nervous I've been ahead of selection for a Test match. I was delighted to be selected.

"If you're not picked it's for a reason, and if that happens I just get my head down and get on with it in that situation.

"I always accepted the captaincy as a tour captain role not a Test captain role, knowing I would have to earn my spot in the Test team.

"Now it's so hotly-contested from one to 15, it just shows the strength in depth and competition we do have in the team."