Warburton trying to ignore carrot of the lions

by RUGBY.com.au staff

Wales skipper Sam Warburton has played down suggestions that he is nailed on for the 2013 British & Irish Lions tour and is instead focused on trying to re-find his best form.

The Grand Slam winning captain started all three of Wales' Tests against Australia in June but he believes that he fell someway short of his high standards on the field. Wales slumped to three defeats against the Wallabies despite the tour being perceived as one where they could return as winners.

Warburton went into the tour with a lack of match action under his belt as he had spent 10 weeks on the sidelines with a shoulder injury and he failed to complete the third Test due to concussion. And Warburton, who was in action for Cardiff against the Dragons on Saturday, wants to re-find the same form that saw him regarded as one of the best back-rowers in the 2011 World Cup.

"I was personally disappointed with the Australia Test series," Warburton told Wales Online. "It was nowhere near my best performances and I thought I let myself down a bit. I am quite hard on myself and I know I have done a lot better in other international matches I have played in.

"The only Test I actually felt decent in and felt as though I got my lungs back was the third one. I had two 80 minutes under my belt by then and I actually felt quite decent. But then Sod's Law I had a bang on the head."

With Wales boss Warren Gatland sitting on the coach's hot seat for the tour, Warburton is regarded as a hot favourite for the captain's armband but he is trying to put any thought of playing for the famous side to one side.

"I'll be honest, I block those sort of thoughts straight away," Warburton said. "I'm not going to beat around the bush. I don't really want to jinx myself. I'm not a superstitious person at all, but I think if you look too far ahead you can end up tripping up.

"I'm not just being diplomatic. If I start talking about that, I'll get ahead of myself. It feels strange to even be mentioned in that context because I am still only 23 and I'm still relatively inexperienced. When I was playing the Dragons on Saturday night, I was thinking this is only the second time I have played at Rodney Parade. I've had about 45 Blues games. Some boys have played over 100 games for their club and they are well over 50 caps.

"I can understand from a fan's perspective how the Lions are around the corner. But from the players' point of view, there's a lot of rugby to be played before that. I have had a chat with the Blues, looking at what the target is for this year, and I would like to play 25-30 games this season.

"So I have got that hurdle to get over first and foremost, injuries permitting. If the same things happen as last year, injury-wise, I wouldn't even be in contention. Staying injury-free is going to be my main priority for this year.

"I only played eight games for the Blues last year, so I feel I owe a lot to them this season. Hopefully I can get a good 20 appearances for them and hopefully somebody can put a good word into Warren for me."