Warburton tapping into O’Connell

Sam Warburton has been tapping into Paul O'Connell's wealth of Lions experience. [more]

Warburton tapping into O’Connell

Sam Warburton has been tapping into Paul O’Connell’s wealth of Lions experience.

The 2013 tour captain has been rooming with the Lions’ last skipper as Warren Gatland’s preparations for Australia intensify.

And Warburton admits he could not have been given a better roommate in his first week as Lions King than O’Connell, who is embarking on his third tour.

Warburton said: “I’ve been rooming with Paul all week, which is good and he’s been giving me some of his wisdom.

“We’ve mainly been chatting about normal things, bloke’s chat but he’s been great company. He’s a good guy to have as one of my first roommates. It certainly has its perks.

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“Already we have come up with things to help the squad develop off the pitch, shaping up some committees and getting some team bonding going.”

O’Connell has been wary of cramping Warburton’s captaincy style and has not enforced any experience upon the Wales flanker

The Cardiff Blues ace reckons the likes of O’Connell and 2005 captain Brian O’Driscoll will grow in prominence throughout the preparations and tour to become major leadership pillars.

But the responsibility does not end with the experienced core of Lions, with Warburton insisting that every member of the 37-man squad has a role to play.

He said: “We have a lot of faith and trust in the players that have been picked and they (senior players) will give me advice along the way as we get in sticky situations.

“At the moment things are going pretty smoothly but when it gets tough those experienced players will step in – right now they don’t want to tread on your toes or be patronising.

“Those senior players will be vitally important in shaping the tour. But it’s not just the experienced guys but the young players on their first tour – they are the ones adding speed to the train – everybody has an input and everyone has shown leadership in their careers whether for club or country.”

With a host of players, including Leinster’s stars who face Stade Francais in the Amlin Challenge Cup final on Friday, currently unavailable due to domestic commitments those attending the Lions first week of training have a clear advantage in selection.

But Warburton insists every single jersey is up for grabs in Australia, including his own despite holding the captain’s armband.

Warburton said: “I don’t like the idea of captaincy guaranteeing a start. There are no guaranteed places and that was something that Warren emphasised, he feels he has a squad where everybody can compete for a starting place.

“The one part of captaincy I don’t like is becoming complacent, I like it when you go into team announcements and you are on edge, not knowing if you have a starting place

“Knowing that you might not be involved is what keeps you going in training and keeps you dedicated off the pitch.

“Everybody is on edge in training and even doing weights they are all lifting 10 per cent from international level. The bar has been raised again.

“We’ve got a good squad to train with and we can all chop and change. The schedule could have been better but we’ve just got to deal with what we have got here at the moment and there are still good numbers.” 

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