Friday, 14 June 2013

GARETH THOMAS: SAM WARBURTON HAS TO START FOR THE LIONS


ABOVE: Gareth Thomas captained the Lions in 2005
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When you go on a Lions tour it is completely different to anything you’ll ever do
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14th June 2013

By Gareth Thomas

HE'S captained the British & Lions and played 100 Tests for Wales. Now legend Gareth Thomas has given Starsport Online his take on what's to come for the Lions - and he's flying the flag for his countryman Sam Warburton.

WARREN GATLAND has made a bed to lie in by picking Sam Warburton as captain - and he will end up with major egg on his face is he doesn't pick him for the first Test.
But so many of the back rowers have impressed on tour, it’s hard to see a place for him.
Justin Tipuric has been playing out of his skin, Toby Faletau has shown he’s up for it, Sean O’Brien has impressed – there are so many possible combinations. You have to admit that the one that gives the Lions their best chance of victory may not involve Sam Warburton.
I would keep Sam in the team - but purely because he is captain.
The way his rivals have played has blown it wide open. Sam hasn’t done anything wrong and it doesn’t undermine him, but candidates who weren’t really considered genuine contenders for the Test team a few weeks back have put their hands up by playing really well.
It puts pressure on Sam but he should be able to deal with it. The other guys that are playing have more freedom to go and express themselves on the pitch because Warby is taking the pressure and the spotlight off them.
With all the media speculation you just have to get on with it. Whether you play on the local park or at a sell-out stadium, it is still rugby, a working-class traditional sport.
When you go on a Lions tour it is completely different to anything you’ll ever do. All of a sudden there is a media bandwagon and a whole group of supporters from all over the British Isles.
As captain in 2005 I had to deal with Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell quite a lot. Although I wasn’t ready for it or expecting it, I realised it was all about promoting the sport and the Lions brand.
At times I thought what’s the point, I was just there for the rugby, but now I get it and I understand.
The next two games will dictate the team for the Lions. The partnerships start to gel and it is interesting to see the attitude of the players who figure out that they’re not in the Test squad.
Some of them will knuckle down and help and some will understandably get p**sed off and upset about not being there. On the training field at the moment there are boys that know if they have done enough.
There are plenty of players who will get disheartened and you wouldn’t be right if you weren’t gutted - but you have to get over that in a matter of seconds.
You can’t be happy at missing out on a once in a lifetime opportunity. You’re not there to be p**sed off, you’re not there to sulk, you’re there to get on with it and play for your place.Gareth Thomas is blogging for Paddy Power during the Lions,
Gareth Thomas is blogging for bookmakers Paddy Power throughout the Lions tour, visit the site for exclusive content and rugby offers.
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