Sam Warburton has no doubt about the priority of his British and Irish Lions team. It is to win the test series at all costs, even if that means dropping mid-week matches.

It's an attitude that probably won't surprise many given the toughness of this 10-match tour which will take place over the next six weeks. The schedule is tough because coach Warren Gatland wanted his men to be battle hardened before meeting the All Blacks, and he's likely to get his wish one way or another.

The Lions will play six matches before the first test at Eden Park on June 24; the NZ Provincial Barbarians, Blues, Crusaders, Highlanders, NZ Maori and Chiefs.

Gatland will be aware that the five New Zealand Super Rugby teams are among the best in the competition - the Crusaders, Chiefs, Hurricanes and Highlanders are in the top seven of the 18 teams - and the ninth-placed Blues at Eden Park next Wednesday are likely to present a stern challenge too.


The threat the Maori will possess in Rotorua hardly needs explaining either. But, starting with the Provincial Barbarians in Whangarei on Saturday, the Lions will clearly build to the first test, and if that means dropping the occasional game in order to strengthen combinations then so be it.

Asked to boil down his philosophy tonight several hours after landing in Auckland, Warburton said: "Just win, I don't care how we win. If we could win every game 3-0 I'd bite your arm off."

He added: "It is all about the test series. These games, they are important you win them, and from four years ago [I know] you do get a good feeling in the camp when you win games. But you've got to realise that these next three weeks are going to be big learning weeks for us."

Warburton, who captained Wales here last year and at the World Cup in 2011, impressed with his honesty in talking about his experiences of touring New Zealand, a place he said is the best country to play in outside of Wales.

He shrugged off any potential concerns about jetlag posing a problem for the side in Whangarei, saying the medical staff recommended the stopover in Melbourne in order to get a full night's sleep in a hotel bed, adding: "I've probably had more sleep in the last three weeks than I would at home because I haven't got my 11-month old baby with me. I'm feeling all right actually."

And he had plenty of nice things to say about Bryn Gatland, the 22-year-old who will start at No10 for the Provincial Barbarians at Toll Stadium.

It was in no way contrived - rather, Warburton and his Welsh teammates plainly have affection for the young man who used to tag along to training with dad as a teenager.

It was also clear that the younger Gatland's exploits in kicking North Harbour to NPC success over Otago last year didn't go unnoticed on the other side of the world.


"We know the No10 pretty well," Warburton said. "I've known Bryn now for ... I remember he was coming in and doing a little bit of kicking with the squad going back six, seven years ago.

"The Wales lads know Bryn very well. I have a lot of respect for Bryn, I saw him play last year and I thought he showed a lot of courage when he stepped up and kicked that dropped goal to win. You've got to give him a lot of credit for that and he's obviously in a good bloodline.

"I'm looking forward to coming up against him and shaking hands after the game. It's a fantastic achievement. Bryn's got a lot of potential."

The charm offensive has started, but the steely resolve is clear to see too.