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Warburton proud to upset the odds against "best team in the world"

13th July 2017

Sam Warburton insists the British and Irish Lions can be pleased with their achievements during the drawn series against New Zealand.

The Lions were treated to a hero’s welcome return, as the squad touched down on home soil yesterday.

Warburton, who remains undefeated as Lions tour captain, is proud that his side managed to upset the odds and avoid a series defeat to the “best team in the world”.

“In hindsight, we’re pretty pleased with what we achieved,” said Warburton.

“Without doubt, New Zealand are the best team in the world. They’re back-to-back world champions. We knew it was going to be the toughest challenge we could have had in our rugby careers.

“Just because we drew, it doesn’t make us the best.

“They’ve earned the right to call themselves that because they’ve played so well over the last 10 years.

“Coming into the tour, not many people gave us much of a chance. The odds were against us, so to surprise a few people by drawing was good.

“It didn’t surprise us because we believed we could do it, but to surpass people’s expectations was good. We’re still disappointed not to get the win.

“I think Ireland showed that last year, they had a good win, but players never believed the hype anyway. I think that is something that is built up externally.

“It’s always about winning, I preferred 2013 because we won, but I’m still very proud of what we did on this tour.

“Against anyone else we’d have been disappointed, but you can take some positives out of drawing a series with the back-to-back world champions.”

Warburton played a key role in the back row during the second and third test against the All Blacks, having a major impact in the breakdown area.

Reflecting on the tour, the back row has highlighted the importance of the Lions from a player's point-of-view.

Warburton said: “From a player’s point-of-view, the Lions are massive. As long as there is a Lions tour, I’m not too fussed how it happens.

“However many games there are, or what the preparation time is, I don’t think players will be too fussed as long as they know there’s an opportunity to put on the shirt.

“If nothing was changed for four years’ time, at least we know the Lions could go out and be successful again. The Lions will be undefeated for eight years [in a series] by 2021 – that doesn’t sound too bad!”