Lions 2013: Sam Warburton enjoying Welsh flavour of squad

Sam Warburton believes that the large Welsh influence in this year's British and Irish Lions squad should help his role as captain and player.

Lions coach Warren Gatland has right-hand man Rob Howley, who deputised for Gatland as Wales boss during the Six Nations, as one of his coaches.

Gatland has also selected 15 Welshmen in his 37-man squad to face Australia.

"His [Gatland's] approach has been very similar. The way he manages players, communicates," Warburton said.

Lions begin training in Wales

"It makes the transition for me as a Welsh player into the Lions squad a lot easier.

"Working with Warren we have exactly the same relationship as before and that's what he's been picked on, the credentials that he has displayed over the past few years."

Although there is the expectation that the Lions will play a similar style to Wales, Warburton hinted that the blend of Welsh, Irish, English and Scottish players will demand a new approach from New Zealander Gatland and his backroom staff.

"We did our first rugby session yesterday afternoon, learning the calls. There's a bit more organisation at this moment in time - new line-outs for everyone - and that's probably going to be the biggest challenge for us, making sure that we're all singing off the same hymn sheet," Warburton said.

"We've said before in the press we'll go down there with the intention to play a lot of rugby, but obviously some groundwork is going to have to be done up front.

"It's going to be tough, it always is. You're never, ever going to play the three southern hemisphere sides [Australia, New Zealand and South Africa] without a massive battle, and we found that out last summer as a Wales team.

Lions fixture list

  • Sat 1 June: Barbarians, Hong Kong
  • Wed 5 June: Western Force, Perth
  • Sat 8 June: Queensland Reds, Brisbane
  • Wed 12 June: Combined New South Wales-Queensland Country, Newcastle
  • Sat 15 June: New South Wales Waratahs, Sydney
  • Tue 18 June: ACT Brumbies, Canberra
  • Sat 22 June: First Test, Brisbane
  • Tue 25 June: Melbourne Rebels, Melbourne
  • Sat 29 June: Second Test, Melbourne
  • Sat 6 July: Third Test, Sydney

"So it will have to be a huge effort but one I'm very confident we can do."

Warburton is the first Welshman to be named tour captain since fly-half legend Phil Bennett, who led the 1977 party to New Zealand.

The 24-year-old was given the armband ahead of Ireland pair Paul O'Connell, who led the Lions in South Africa four years ago, and Brian O'Driscoll, who was captain in New Zealand in 2005 before injury prematurely ended his tour.

"I'm sharing a room with Paul O'Connell, so he's sharing all of his wisdom which is great," Warburton added.

"Every decision I made in the Six Nations wasn't based upon the British and Irish Lions, and captaincy and things, it was what was best for myself and the team at the time to make sure I could perform.

"The captaincy people have spoken about for the last 12 months really as well as squad selection, but I've said all along that all you can do is try to concentrate on the present and your own performance.

"Luckily Warren has put faith in me and picked me as captain and I'm absolutely delighted with that."

The 2013 squad begin with a warm-up game against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on 1 June, before travelling on to Australia for nine more games that include three Tests against the Wallabies.

Wales' 15-strong contingent are set to dominate the opener against the Baa-Baas, as Ireland and England still have players involved in the Pro12 and Premiership play-offs.