Sam Warburton admits he will face one of the biggest challenges of his career when he captains the British and Irish Lions on their summer tour to New Zealand.
Warburton becomes only the second man to captain the iconic side on two separate tours, alongside former Leicester Tigers and England great, Martin Johnson.
The Lions, led by head coach Warren Gatland, will embark on a five week tour of New Zealand, leading up to a three-match test series against current Rugby World Cup holders, the All Blacks.
“It’s going to be the biggest challenge of my career so far. Even out of all the World Cups, the other Lions tour, summer tours with Wales, Six Nations campaigns, cup competitions with Cardiff Blues, you add it all in and it’s still definitely going to be the toughest assignment I’ve faced.” said Warburton.
“That’s amazing and the opportunity to win, if we do manage to be successful out there, would be the biggest achievement of any of our careers. Even though it’s going to be extremely tough, the opportunity is fantastic.
“It wasn’t a relief as such [to be named captain], because I wasn’t expecting it to be honest. I found out a lot later than I did four years ago, so I thought it was already handed to someone else. It was a lovely surprise when I did get the call from Warren.
“It’s been a pretty busy 24 hours, but I’m glad it’s out in the public domain now and that I don’t have to lie to people anymore!
“It’s such a strange feeling to be put into a similar bracket as the greats who have captained the Lions in the past, especially as I’m the only one who is still playing.
“We had a dinner the night before, with the ex-captains, and around 12 of us there, and to be in that company was really special, especially when you see the names around the table. They’re all heroes and legends and that’s quite surreal and it hits home how important and big a job it is.”
Warburton is one of 12 Welshmen to be selected in the initial touring party, and the Cardiff Blues back row believes the competition for places was as fierce as ever for this year’s tour.
“Its an amazing squad. There’s a lot of top players who’ve missed out. The coaches have already said it, it’s one of the strongest year for selection in a long time.
“The nice thing is, even if you do get hit with injuries on tour, the guys who will get called up will be as strong as the boys who are already out there. It was a luxury for the coaches to choose from so many guys, but unfortunately that means a lot of quality players have missed out.
“I’m looking forward to be playing with all the England boys. They’ve been very successful recently. I’ve played with a lot of them before but from a back row perspective I haven’t played with Peter O’Mahony or Billy Vunipola before, so I’m looking forward to be playing with them as well.”
2017/18 Season Memberships at Cardiff Blues on sale NOW! Early Bird Sale and Save your Seat ends 31st May. To purchase, click here