Warburton eyes series victory for Lions in New Zealand

BY AP • July 1, 2017

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) Only a series victory against New Zealand next week will make British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton a happy man.

Warburton and Lions coach Warren Gatland both experienced their first-ever wins over New Zealand when the tourists beat the All Blacks 24-21 in Saturday's second test, leveling the three-test series at 1-1.

But it's the prospect of a first victorious tour of New Zealand in 46 years that really has Warburton fired up ahead of next Saturday's clash in Auckland at Eden Park.

''I didn't even celebrate when the final whistle went,'' Warburton said. ''I just sort of thought we're evens now. They won the first half, we won the second half and we've got one more half of rugby.

''I'm glad we're taking it to Eden Park next week. But I genuinely would only be happy if we get that test series win next week. We've got one game, I guess. Regardless of whatever happens we're going to come back with some credibility for the Lions and keeping the reputation of that.''

Warburton said the match passed in a blur and he only later reflected on the fact that the Lions had kept the All Blacks try-less in a test for the first time in three years.

''I actually took a second to think about that,'' said Warburton, who hasn't beaten the All Blacks as captain of Wales. ''That's an incredible achievement in itself.

''I know we were against 14 men so we have to be prepared for a tougher encounter next week. We're going to be up against 15 blokes so we have to be prepared to step up again next week but I'm very proud of that defensive effort.''

For New Zealand-born Gatland, it was a vindication of selection decisions and tactics which had been questioned by the media before the match.

Reporters had queried Gatland's decision to play two flyhalves - Ireland's Johnny Sexton and England's Owen Farrell - at flyhalf and inside center, and to retain veteran Wales lock Alun Wyn Jones and pair him in the second row with rising star Maro Itoje.

Itoje had an outstanding match, leading the Lions with nine carries and 14 tackles, sharing a heavy workload with backrowers Sean O'Brien, Taulupe Faletau and Warburton.

''There's no doubt the last couple of weeks in terms of the criticism and personal attacks has been a little bit tough to take,'' said Gatland, who had never previously beaten the All Blacks as coach of Ireland and Wales.

''Not so much for myself, because that's part of sport but for family members... But as I said last week, it's water off a duck's back and it's ironically been a huge positive. So whoever's been doing that, please continue to do it.''

share story