British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has hailed Wales flanker Sam Warburton’s performances in the Six Nations thus far as ‘outstanding’.
Warburton, who captained the 2013 Lions to a 2-1 win over Australia, has been playing in a new-look Welsh backrow alongside Ross Moriarty and Justin Tipuric.
Warburton has performed admirably through two games against Italy and England but Gatland has been more than impressed singling out his work at the breakdown as a dominant factor for his inclusion in this summer’s Lions tour of New Zealand, if, of course, he can stay healthy.
“He’s been outstanding in the first couple of games in the way that he’s competed (at the breakdown) and brought physicality,” said Gatland (via BBC Sport).
“New Zealand have got three or four open-sides that are very strong at the breakdown and you’ve got to be able to have someone who can do that,” said Gatland.
“I’m not saying you don’t have someone at seven who can carry and play a bit wider, there are options for that as well, but you get potentially poor weather conditions in New Zealand and someone who’s able to get on the ball, slow things down, Sam’s able to do that.
“For him the challenge is to stay injury-free because he’s picked up a few injuries, the challenge for him and a lot of players is getting a run of games under his belt.”
Wales will play Scotland next weekend in the first game of round three as Rob Howley’s side look to pick up their second win of the campaign after stumbling last Saturday against England.
Wales should also be buoyed by the return of Luke Charteris who has returned to Wales training this week after overcoming a hand injury.
Jack O’Toole, Pundit Arena