Sam Warburton and his British & Irish Lions received a rapturous reception as they brought home the Tom Richards Trophy for first time in 12 years today.
Hundreds of fans were at Heathrow Airport to greet the first Lions team to win a Test series in 16 years as they returned from their 10 match tour this morning. They won eight of their matches and crucially took the Test series against the Qantas Wallabies 2-1.
Warburton was ruled out of the decisive third Test last weekend with a hamstring injury and admitted he never sat easily in his seat in the stands at the ANZ Stadium until five minutes to go in the 41-16 victory that led to him lifting the trophy.
"People might have thought I might have relaxed in the 60th minute but, being the pessimist I am and knowing Australia can always strike back with a few tries in a few minutes, I could not relax until it was five minutes to go,” said Warburton.
"I figured out in my head that they had to get a try every 75 seconds to win, which I would have backed our defence on that one. That's the point I started smiling and celebrating.
"It’s a great feeling. This Lions tour has been a long time coming so it is nice to come back with a trophy. It has only been done a dozen times in 125 years so all the players know they are part of a very prestigious group and are very proud of that.
"It won't sink in for a long time. It feels quite surreal being part of a Lions touring party because it is only four years ago that I got capped for Wales during the last Lions tour. I never thought I would be in this situation four years later.
"Maybe in a few months' time or a few years' time I might watch back a DVD and realise what we achieved."