Sam Warburton not thinking about captaincy and will be happy just to be in Lions squad

Jack Austin
The Independent
Warburton is the bookies' favourite to retain the captaincy: Getty
Warburton is the bookies' favourite to retain the captaincy: Getty

Wales flanker Sam Warburton insists he will be happy just to earn a place in the British and Irish Lions tour party heading to New Zealand this year and is not thinking about whether or not he will retain the captaincy.

Warburton, who lost the Wales captaincy to Alun Wyn Jones this year, is the favourite to lead the side out in New Zealand following some inspired performances during the Six Nations with question marks surrounding other contenders such as Dylan Hartley and Rory Best.

The 28-year-old missed the decisive third test in 2013 through injury, with Jones leading the side to the win in Sydney. Jones was considered the frontrunner to be captain this year too, but Warburton has since become the bookies’ favourite, with the squad set to be named on April 19.

However, competition in the back row is fierce with only five expected to tour from the likes of Warburton, CJ Stander, Maro Itoje, Sean O’Brien, Justin Tipuric, Jamie Heaslip, James Haskell, Chris Robshaw and Peter O’Mahony.

"I'd love to be in that (Lions) squad and I can't look past further than that. There's so much competition in the squad," Warburton said.

"I would love to go on tour and I've always respected the players who have gone on multiple Lions tours and that's something I'd love and try and do."

The New Zealand tour includes a total of 10 fixtures to be played from June 3 to July 8, including three tests against the All Blacks and five matches against New Zealand Super Rugby teams.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland previously said he would be picking his squad before his captain but both are set to be announced next month, although Warburton insists he hasn’t had a conversation with anyone about it.

"Fans, pundits, media are all talking about it [Warburton being named captain] but I haven't had a single conversation about that," he added.

"You just know that's part and parcel of playing international rugby. It's a compliment but it's something I'm not thinking about."

Additional reporting by Reuters

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