British & Irish Lions 2013 tour manager Andy Irvine reckons Wales’ Triple Crown skipper Sam Warburton is now as good as New Zealand’s Richie McCaw.
Warburton picked up the RBS Man of the Match award after Wales’ 19-12 Twickenham triumph before he collected the Triple Crown trophy. Then he had proase heaped on him by Irvine for his superb performance on the openside.
Speaking to the BBC, Irvine said: ""I thought Warburton was outstanding, especially for a guy who has been out injured recently. His defensive work was brilliant and he was clever at the breakdown. He is the northern hemisphere's Richie McCaw.”
Irvine has been keeping a watching brief on the RBS 6 Nations as he looks for a coach for the 2013 tour to Australia and some likely candidates. He is also looking for a captain to lead the squad to Australia to try to win the Lions’ first series since 1997.
Wales head coach Warren Gatland was already the bookies firm favourite to take the top job next year before his team ground out a second Triple Crown winning performance under him and Warburton is now emerging as a leading candidate for the captaincy duties.
"It was a huge physical contest, the collisions were really intense. It took a hell of a performance from Wales in the end to win it," said Irvine.
"I am delighted with the way England stood up and, even though they lost, it was by far the best they've played in the tournament. It is good for the Lions when you see a game of that calibre.
"That is a huge Welsh back division, but what I like about them is they are good rugby players. Sometimes, big men tend to be a wee bit slow, but not these guys.
"I thought George North was absolutely outstanding, he hardly made a mistake. He has got movement and a lot of class, and at the other end of the spectrum Leigh Halfpenny was a revelation.
"Two or three of them really put their hand up for England, which was great to see. Owen Farrell showed a lot of maturity and he can be very pleased with his performance.”