1. ITV Report

Sam Warburton: Wales players haven't discussed Lions selection

Sam Warburton says the subject of British and Irish Lions selections has not been discussed in the Wales squad during this year's Six Nations campaign.

Sam Warburton says the subject of British and Irish Lions selections has not been discussed during this year's Six Nations Credit: David Davies/PA Archive/PA Images

Saturday's Six Nations clash with France is Wales' last match before coach Warren Gatland names his Lions squad next month for the tour of New Zealand.

Warburton, who was the 2013 Lions captain in Australia. and a number of his Wales colleagues, are among the contenders to be included in the squad but, he says it is not a topic which has been discussed much.

I actually find it quite funny, because the hype for the Lions starts in August-September, and everyone is picking their hypothetical Lions XVs. It has been on my social media, and wherever I go people have been predicting 'you're in, you're out'.

It just pops up everywhere you go.

And as players, there is nothing you can do but laugh it off.

I've mentioned it before, but not one player has mentioned the Lions to each other. Obviously, guys want to go on that tour - everybody in our team-room would love to go on the Lions tour - but it's out of our hands completely. So all you can do is play as well as you can, and if you get selected you get selected, and if not, there is still a fantastic tour in the summer with Wales with a couple of Tests. So plenty left to play for.

– Sam Warburton, Wales Flanker
Sam Warburton during Wales' Six Nations encounter with Ireland Credit: David Davies/PA Archive/PA Images

Warburton's immediate aim will be to target a sixth successive victory for Wales against France, and keep alive the possibility of finishing as Six Nations runners-up behind England.

A win in France would also secure a top four world ranking - if England also beat Ireland - ahead of May's 2019 World Cup pool draw.

For us, before the Ireland game (Wales won 22-9), we were staring down the barrel of finishing fifth in the Six Nations, which I would have been gutted about, given all the hard work gone in from the players and management,

And now, potentially, we could finish second, depending on results.

We have been in the top three over the past four or five years consistently now, and we don't want to slip out of that.

That is the motivation for the players.

If we finish second, that's not a bad championship.

It wouldn't be great, as our goal is to win, but if we come second, that is not too bad.

– Sam Warburton, Wales Flanker

The 28-year-old said having the pressure of the Wales captaincy lifted from his shoulders has improved his form.

Warburton skippered his country for six years before being replaced by Alun Wyn Jones.

Alun Wyn Jones (L) took over the Wales captaincy from Sam Warburton (R) Credit: David Davies/PA Wire/PA Images

Being captain of Wales carries a lot of weight on the shoulders, I remember when I was first captain of Wales I would be walking around the hotel and constantly thinking 'oh my, I'm captain of Wales' and all eyes are on you, you are under the microscope, really. Now I have taken myself out of that, it feels like you are under the radar, which takes the pressure off. I love the big games, with a lot of pressure on, but with disruption with a few more injuries than I would have liked in the past 12 months, it has been good to take a bit of pressure and heat off myself and work on my own individual performance.

– Sam Warburton, Wales Flanker

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