Sam Warburton the Lions’ brightest

Sam Warburton the Lions’ brightest

Postautor: pinkpink » 10 lip 2017, o 07:49

There are several defining images from the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour, many of them involving the same colour: the red card shown to Sonny Bill Williams in Wellington, Warren Gatland’s red clown nose, the oceans of red in the stadiums and, perhaps above all else, the red?shirted Lions Adam Oates Authentic Jersey captain, Sam Warburton, jokingly yanking the trophy towards himself as he and his New Zealand opposite number, Kieran Read, posed for end-of-series photographs.
For the Lions to have even one hand on the prize at the end was extraordinary. It is impossible to overstate the barriers they have hurdled to compete on this tour and the shared spoils have earned them fresh respect in both hemispheres. A final tour record of P10 W5 D2 L3, with a positive aggregate try count of 18-16 and only one defeat by more than one score, is rather better than Gatland’s detractors expected.
Not everything was perfect; the saga of the extra six replacements was poorly handled, the lack of Scottish Test involvement was a shame and the old warm rapport on Lions tours between the squad and the travelling media has floated away into the anti-social media ether. For all the commercial rapaciousness of the modern Lions operation, however, this tour has otherwise restored faith in a noble ideal and, in Warburton, the squad had one of the all-time great ambassadors.
Not even Willie John McBride captained two successive undefeated Lions squads nor bounced back from failing to make the starting XV for the first Test to deny a hugely motivated New Zealand in the last two brutal, defining games. If Jonathan Davies was a deserved winner of the players’ player of the tour award, it was Warburton who made the quietly persuasive request for Romain Poite to re?examine his initial decision to award New Zealand a kickable penalty in the closing moments with the scoreboard reading 15-15.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of Poite’s accidental offside ruling – and footage of Read a yard in front of Beauden Barrett’s all-important restart further emphasises how hard it is for match officials to spot every significant offence – there was no bigger U-turn on this trip than New Zealand’s failure to clinch the series from 1-0 ahead with two to play. If Gatland deserves credit for edging his battle of coaching wits penguins Womens Jersey with Steve Hansen, his best call may have been the reappointment of Warburton.
“I read a great quote from Michael Johnson which stuck with me,” said Warburton, his on-field labours finally over. “He said: ‘Pressure is just the shadow of great opportunity.’ That’s how I see it. Don’t be afraid of what you could lose. Be excited about what you could achieve. You’ve got to be brave, take chances and make things happen. When you get in the real big games, you don’t want occasions to blur for players. You still want them to have a go, play with freedom and instinct.”
The Lions were certainly true to their pre-tour word about giving it everything. If the final body count was slightly lower than expected, the scans awaiting Sean O’Brien and Johnny Sexton, both high?class Test “animals”, before they fly home were a reminder of just how much commitment these tours require.
Warburton, for example, found it difficult to address his players beforehand, so conscious was he of the magnitude of the occasion: “I probably didn’t say as much as I normally would because I felt very emotional before the game. You think of all sorts – my family, my little girl, my wife – and all the things you sacrifice to get here: your diet, your sleep, your lifestyle. When I chat to youngsters, I always say to them Obrazek that being a professional rugby player is a lifestyle. It’s not about the five or six hours you’re at a training ground each day, it is what you do off the field, how you look after yourself. When you have been committed for four years and you get to a Lions series, all that effort goes into one 80-minute game. You just want to do yourself justice.”
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