Rugby: Warburton confident Lions can end Australia drought

Sam Warburton says the Lions won't repeat Wales' near losses. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Sam Warburton says the Lions won't repeat Wales' near losses. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Sam Warburton says his Welsh side's string of heart-breaking losses to the Wallabies makes him even more confident the Lions can end their 16-year rugby tour drought in Australia.

Wales have lost six tests to Australia in the past 20 months, including four last year, but Warburton believes that record will work in the Lions' favour.

The tour captain, to finally make his Lions debut tonight against Queensland, said it was only minor lapses at the death which cost them three wins against Australia in 2012.

Most painful was when Kurtley Beale stole a 14-12 win in Cardiff with a last-minute try while Mike Harris kicked a last-play penalty goal for a 25-23 victory in Melbourne to clinch last year's three-test series in Australia.

The Wallabies were then lucky to follow up with a 20-19 win in the dead-rubber in Sydney.

"In 2012 we played them four times and three times it was by a whisker so we knew we did 99.9 per cent of things right to beat them," Warburton said.

"Whether it was just a lack of discipline at the end for a three-point kick or the only system error we made in defence in the whole game, that was the difference really.

"I would have thought we would have learned from those experiences, and then you throw into the mix Scotland, Ireland and England - the best of those countries - and that would tip the scales in our favour."

Warburton revealed tour manager Andy Irvine had set the 2013 squad the task to create history by becoming the first Lions team to win every match on tour.

The last tour party to return to the United Kingdom with a test series triumph was Ian McGeechan's 1997 team.

The Lions side is expected to feature five Welshman in its backline and possibly as many as five in its starting pack when the test series starts on June 22 in Brisbane.

To ensure he'll be one, Warburton must hit the ground running when he lines up at openside flanker for his first match on tour against the Reds.

Compatriot Justin Tipuric and Irishman Sean O'Brien both impressed in their starts at No7 against the Barbarians and Western Force, while Dan Lydiate and Tom Croft also have strong claims for the No6 jersey.

Quade Cooper has been made captain of the Reds, his last chance to impress the Wallabies selectors before the test series begins.

With usual skipper James Horwill among seven Australian squad members unavailable for selection, Cooper will enter the game as the Reds' most-capped Wallaby with 38 test appearances.

Cooper was omitted from Wallabies coach Robbie Deans' initial 25-man squad for the three-test Lions series, but remains a chance for one of the final six spots to be announced on Tuesday.

"Quade is a proven winner and real facilitator of success here at the Reds and the reality is that we win more games with him in the side," said Reds coaching boss Ewen McKenzie, who has made no secret of his belief that Cooper should be the test five-eighths against the Lions.

"What most people don't know or see is the responsibility and ownership he takes on with regards to our game plan.

"Quade has now had four years of direct leadership involvement in this space, not just in calling the game, but in advocating our gameplan and problem solving during the week."

Cooper said it would be an honour to captain Queensland.

• Lions prop Cian Healy has been cleared of acts contrary to good sportsmanship, following a hearing in Brisbane. Healy was cited following an incident in the opening match of the tour against Force halfback Brett Sheehan. Judicial officer, Nigel Hampton QC, found insufficient evidence to support the allegations and cleared Healy.

- AAP

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