Lessons learnt says Sam

Lions skipper Sam Warburton says the lessons he and his Welsh colleagues learnt in Australia last summer will stand them in good stead for their return visit with Britain and Ireland's elite next month. [more]

Lessons learnt says Sam

Lions skipper Sam Warburton says the lessons he and his Welsh colleagues learnt in Australia last summer will stand them in good stead for their return visit with Britain and Ireland’s elite next month.

Wales were whitewashed in agonising circumstances 11 months ago as the hosts showed just how clinical they can be in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

A poor start left Wales chasing their tails in the opening clash but only a last-gasp penalty prevented a first Test win on southern hemisphere soil since 1967 in the second rubber before the final international was decided by a single point.

Warburton has since described the experience as ‘heart breaking’ but he insists it’s one that could have a positive impact on how the Welsh contingent prepare for the challenge that lies ahead with the Lions.

“The one thing I think the Welsh boys will have learnt from last year’s tour is that you need a good start,” said Warburton.

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“We killed ourselves in the first 40 minutes in the first Test Brisbane when we were off the pace.

“The coaches had warned us that it’s a different game that’s played when you go down south than when they come to the Millennium Stadium – it’s a lot quicker, you play with more intensity and they wanted us to be prepared for that.

“But, to be honest, we weren’t quite prepared for it. We were a young bunch of boys and not many of us had played down in Australia before.

“We learnt a lot from that first half in the opening match. The second half there was a lot better and the two games after that were desperately close.

“With the Lions, we’ve got to make sure we start well and expect the highest intensity that you can get in the international game. If we can be prepared for that, that would be the most important lesson we’d have learnt from last summer.”

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Wales stars Dan Lydiate, Warburton and Alun Wyn Jones are desperate to make amends for last summer

Much has been made of the fact that the Qantas Wallabies have had the edge on Wales and on Lions coaches Warren Gatland and Rob Howley in recent times but Warburton doesn’t envisage the squad heading to Oz low on confidence.

Yes, Wales have lost the last eight encounters with Robbie Deans’ troops but most of those matches have been tight affairs, while Scotland saw off the Lions’ hosts in Newcastle this time last year.

And when you consider the presence of players from both England and Ireland – countries who beat the Qantas Wallabies in the southern hemisphere in 2010 and 2011 – it’s easy to see why Warburton believes there are plenty of reasons to be positive

“We’ll definitely go down there with confidence,” added Warburton.

“We were desperately unlucky not to win in some of those games with Wales. We did everything right, if you look at the stats in terms of possession, setpiece, line beaks for and against and penalties, we had what it took to win.

“The penalty at the end of the second Test was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever been involved with for sheer disappointment. We were absolutely gutted to lose that one and the autumn international in Cardiff was similar. I felt we defended our tryline very well all game, they didn’t really threaten us too much and against Australia that’s pretty difficult to do. But then they scored right at the death.

“They were terrible defeats to take but we’ve learnt from that. And when you can combine three more nations to your side and add that quality, it just fills me with confidence that that’s what it will take to push that to a win.”

Warburton is under no illusions as to just how hard the three-Test series and the 10-match tour will be, however, especially given how well some of the Australian Super XV sides are playing this season.

As well as facing the national side on June 22, 29 and July 6, the Lions take on all five Super Rugby franchises and a combined New South Wales and Queensland Country outfit after kicking off the 125th anniversary adventure against the Barbarians in Hong Kong.

It’s a tough ask for the tourists given their lack of preparation time before departure on May 27 but Warburton sees that as a good thing for what should be a mouth-watering month or so of rugby.

“I’ve watched some of the Super XV. The Brumbies and Reds in particular are doing very well and that’s good for the tour that that’s happening.

“It seems to be the case that whenever the Lions go to South Africa, New Zealand or Australia, teams from those countries are on song that year!

“It makes it more entertaining and that’s the way the players want it. You wouldn’t want the opposition to have any excuses so to have two full-strength sides when it comes to the Test series will hopefully make for a great finale.”

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