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Warburton calls for Lions to stand up physically

29th June 2017

Sam Warburton has called on his side to match up physically to the All Blacks during Saturday's second Test, as Warren Gatland's side aim to bounce back from last week's defeat in the series opener at Eden Park.

The Cardiff Blues back row is one of three changes to the Lions’ starting line-up for Saturday’s match, and has been named captain for the clash at Westpac Stadium.

Warburton, who came off the bench in the opening Test match, insists his side is highly motivated following last week’s defeat but believes it is vital that they improve on specific aspects of their game.

“When you come off second best there it does hurt you as a player,” said Warburton.

“Sometimes you lose games from a bounce of a ball or a controversial decision but when you have been – and we were – beaten pretty well from a physical side of things that is disappointing from a playing perspective.

“You play rugby because you enjoy the physical side of the sport – that is definitely the case for me.

“For that reason it will be a motivational factor for this weekend, we are looking forward to going back and improving that area of the game.

“You have to give credit to New Zealand, they took us on where we were perceived to be strong and took away our threats.

“They had a well-though-out gameplan and executed it really well. They deserved to win last Saturday, now it is our turn to improve those areas which are weaknesses.”

Warburton lines up in the back row alongside Wales teammate Taulupe Faletau and Ireland’s Sean O’Brien.

The Lions captain is excited at the opportunity of playing alongside the Leinster star, but insists having two natural openside flankers on the park will count for nothing if his side don't come out on top in the contact area.

Warburton said: “It is the first time I have played with Sean which I am really looking forward to.

“I played against him for the last eight years and have been in two Lions squads with him but we have never played together from the start. I have come off the bench but not started with him.

“I am really looking forward to that – Sean is one of the best sevens I have played against in my career so I am looking forward to seeing how that partnership goes.

“I do more of the lineout stuff and Seany is not in there so much. Set piece it is a little bit more six and seven but when it is open play we will both have our seven hats on and go hard.

“You can pick eight sevens if you want, but if you don't win collisions it's hard to slow ball down.

“I've been in packs where you've been on the back foot and its extremely hard competing for the ball when the tackle's going backwards and the clean out players are arriving on to it at speed.

“And that's one thing I think we can improve on, is our first three phases in defence as they were crossing the gainline each three times and when they've crossed the gainline three times in a row, it then becomes extremely difficult to get in on the ball.

“Our first three phase mentality has to be better, it has to be aggressive. It is a collision sport, if you win 99 times out of 100 most of the collisions, you'll win the game.”

Warburton also insists the squad is packed of players who have experience of playing, and succeeding, under high pressure situations, which could give them an edge going into Saturday’s crunch match.

Warburton added: “The guys have experienced that before in the Six Nations.

“You don't get it in the autumn or the summer series but in the Six Nations I have gone into a lot of games from a Welsh perspective knowing if you lose you are out of title contention.

“Guys have all been through that before with their national teams, went through it four years ago in the third Test against Australia, so guys are used to that pressure.

“It is nice, you are doing the team session today and you see the 23 – it is such a classy group of players.

“Those guys can take a lot of pressure and it won't phase them. We have a good team, very experienced and they will be able to deal with anything that is thrown at them on Saturday.”