Sam Warburton is confident he will be bigger and better than ever before, as he edges closer to a return to action in a Cardiff Blues shirt.
After leading the British and Irish Lions to a drawn series against New Zealand last summer, the back row was ruled out of the entire 2017/18 campaign following surgery to his neck and knee.
Warburton is looking forward to returning to action alongside his team-mates, and is excited at the back row competition in the squad, after the likes of Josh Navidi, Josh Turnbull, Ellis Jenkins and Nick Williams impressed last season.
“I’ve had enough time off now, and the body is in the best shape that I can remember it being in a long time. It’s put me in the best possible position to get back to my best rugby again, and I can’t wait to get that Cardiff Blues shirt back on next season,” said the two-times Lions captain.
“I can’t wait to get my boots back on. At the start of the season, I was enjoying getting my body back together, but now I’m desperate and can’t wait to get back out there during pre-season.
“I’ve spoken to the medical staff and have penciled one of the pre-season games where I’ll be looking to play. We’ve got Leicester Tigers at home at the Arms Park, which would be great.
“I can’t remember a time where there wasn’t competition in the back row, and the likes of myself, Josh Navidi and Ellis Jenkins have been here and playing together for the last six years.
“They’re all friends, before anything else, and that’s what I’m looking forward to most. Getting the shirt back on, sitting next to the lads in the changing room, going through hard fought wins together and enjoying each other’s company after the game.
“That’s what rugby is all about, especially here at the Blues, where you play with guys who have come through the same system as you, and that’s why I want to stay here.”
Having been a spectator at Cardiff Blues’ home games throughout the season, Warburton says the Arms Park atmosphere is another motivation for him to return to action with his home region.
He is also excited to work with incoming head coach, John Mulvihill, following positive talks with the Australian over the past few weeks.
Warburton said: “The support was awesome, particularly during the second half of the season, and it’s helped the boys get to an European final and secure Champions Cup rugby under our belts for next season.
“You remember the game agains Pau in the semi final, and it’s no coincidence that you play some of your best games in front of a full house. It has a huge influence on players and they genuinely can’t wait get our and play at the Arms Park.
“It’s a really enjoyable place to play and train here at the moment, and the guys love it here. You can see that on the pitch, and how much the guys enjoy playing with each other.
“Having spoken to John, I really liked his training ethos and his attitude towards taking the team forward.
“Sometimes you come across coaches who are thriving to get better and better and challenge every individual player, and it seems like that what John will bring to us next season.
“I still think my best days are ahead of me and he’s keen to help develop myself, which is great to see a coach coming in and wanting to improve further.
"The core of us are still here next season, and hopefully we can kick on for another successful season.”
Join Cardiff Blues for the return of Warburton and Champions Cup rugby at Cardiff Arms Park. Find out more HERE