British & Irish Lions 2013

Lions receive heroes' welcome

Wed, 10 Jul 2013 18:00
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It won't sink in for a long time
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British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton admitted he is just beginning to appreciate the scale of his team's achievements after they returned home to a heroes' welcome following their triumphant tour of Australia.

Warburton's side enjoyed an unforgettable series victory with Saturday's 41-16 rout of the Australians in Sydney.

It was just their fifth series win in Australia since World War II and represented a first tour triumph for the Lions since Ian McGeechan's side won in South Africa in 1997.

Hundreds of fans greeted the team at Heathrow Airport when they arrived home on Wednesday morning, with a huge cheer going up when Warburton emerged with the trophy on top of his baggage trolley.

"It is a lot cleaner than it was Saturday night, that's for sure," Warburton said. "There were a few bottles of champagne in the trophy.

"It is a great feeling. It has been a long time coming this Lions tour so it is nice to come back with a trophy.

"It has only been done nine 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, I think. It feels quite surreal being part of a Lions touring party.

"Only four years ago I got capped for Wales during the first Lions tour. I got on the development tour and 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."

Warburton missed the series decider with a hamstring tear and, watching on from the sidelines, admitted he could not relax until the 75th minute.

"People might have thought I might have relaxed in the 60th-odd minute," he said.

"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.

"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 start smiling and celebrating."

It has been quite a week for British sport, with the Lions triumph followed by Scotland's Andy Murray winning Wimbledon on Sunday.

The England cricket team will be hoping to keep the feel-good factor going when they kick-off the Ashes at Trent Bridge on Wednesday, with Warburton confident of Australia suffering yet more sporting woe.

"We will all be watching keenly," he said. "We've got nothing to do for four weeks now but to watch cricket, so our eyes will be glued to the telly and hopefully they can do the job.

"I am sure they have had a massive influx of messages but the boys have sent good luck messages to them for the last couple of weeks now."

SAPA

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