Sam Warburton said yesterday he is urging his British and Irish Lions team to finish off the Wallabies in the second Test in Melbourne this weekend and wrap up the series.
Having taken a 1-0 lead in the three-match series, the Lions skipper wants his team to change history at the Etihad Stadium and become the first Lions team in 16 years to clinch a series.
On the last two tours to Australia, in 1989 and 2001, the side that has won the first Test has gone on to lose the series. Warburton does not want history to repeat itself.
“The talk around the players has been making sure we finish it this weekend,” Warburton said. “There has been no complacency thinking that we’ve got a week off because there is another opportunity next week.”
“Momentum would completely swing if Australia won. They’d be going into another home game to finish after winning a game,” he said. “So we definitely want to finish it off this weekend and the players are motivated to do that.”
Warburton reminded his team that the Wallabies were only a failed kick away from pinching last week’s first Test when Kurtley Beale slipped over as he ran in for his penalty goal attempt in the final minutes. The Lions hung on to win 23-21.
“They will bounce back. They were only a kick away from winning last week so they know they have every chance of getting the Test series back,” he said.
“If it was one-nil down the talk in our camp would be that we believed we could bring it back. The Australians being Australians, they are great competitors and there is no way they will be down and out,” Warburton said.
“I imagine they will come out firing. As [coach] Warren Gatland said it is all or nothing for them now and we expect a huge performance from them,” he said.
Warburton led Wales in last year’s three-Test series against the Wallabies and knows all about the Etihad Stadium and playing under its closed roof. His home international ground, Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, also has a roof.
“It will be the biggest game of my career because the potential achievement will be something that nobody has achieved for the last four tours. That’s something I am really looking forward to — I love that,” he said.
“It is knowing what you could achieve, although we know we are going to have to do something special to make sure we do that. All the players are in this squad because they perform well in the big games and they are the ones you look forward to,” the Welshman said.
“Normally you are pretty nervous in the week going into a big game like this for club or country, but this week is complete excitement and it can’t come quickly enough,” he said. “I have had nervous excitement this week. It’s quite strange when you wake every day knowing that it is five days, then four and now it is down to two before the Test.”
“We played with roof closed here last year with Wales. I know it is a different occasion, but I think the players will enjoy it. If you ask any of our lot whether they want the roof open or closed and they will all say closed because it helps the atmosphere,” Warburton said.
The Australian Rugby Union said yesterday that there were only 500 tickets left for tomorrow’s Test with Etihad Stadium expected to be filled to its 53,000 capacity.