EXCLUSIVE: Warburton claims Wales must forget the defeats and beat New Zealand to become… IMMORTAL
22:30 GMT, 18 November 2012
Sam Warburton believes his Wales team will become 'immortal' if they can stop the rot and beat the world's No 1 team New Zealand on Saturday.
The Wales captain was left on the bench for Friday night's gruesome defeat by Samoa but will return to the starting line-up to face the World Cup winners.
After five defeats on the trot, Warburton admits this will be his hardest week as leader of a team desperately fighting for form.
Humiliated: Samoa beat Wales on Friday
Head coach Warren Gatland, who has been focusing on his duty as Lions head coach for the past eight months, returns this morning to take his first hands-on training session since preparing for Wales's Grand Slam game against France in March.
He inherits a team who haven't won a real Test match since then, and has only five days to prepare them to face an imperious All Blacks side they haven't beaten since 1953.
But Warburton believes history can inspire Wales.
'The players know the team that beat the All Blacks 60 years ago are all remembered for that victory,' he said.
'The players appreciate that if they were fortunate enough to beat the All Blacks then it would almost make them immortal.
'I think Wales would go crazy. It would be one of the biggest achievements in the modern game for Welsh rugby because nobody has experienced it for a long time.
'We've had such good support over the last few years in packed houses because the supporters believe we can actually win these now.'
Warburton himself can expect plenty of scrutiny over his personal duel with All Blacks captain and fellow openside Richie McCaw.
Immortal Sam Warburton (right) hopes Wales can forget the defeats and beat New Zealand
ITALY FORCE THE KIWIS TO DIG DEEP
World champions New Zealand overcame a sluggish start to beat Italy 42-10 on Saturday in front of a 70,000 crowd in Rome's Olympic Stadium.
Tries from Kieran Read, Ma'a Nonu, Cory Jane and Julian Savea (2), plus 17 points from the boot of Aaron Cruden were enough for New Zealand to see off Jacques Brunel's team.
But Italy trailed just 13-7 at half-time after an Alberto Sgarbi try and All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said: 'I thought the attitude of Italy's game was outstanding.'
McCaw has been the master openside flanker of the modern game and if the Wales skipper can win that battle then he can set the tone for his team to follow.
'I've only faced McCaw once so I'm looking forward to a second battle against him,' he said.
'He's a player I definitely looked up to growing up.
'The style McCaw plays is the type of back rower similar to myself. But I've never tried to become any player, I've always wanted to be my own player.
As a kid I'd try to pick the best bits from certain players' games and try to implement them into my own.
'How many turnovers each No 7 gets in a game has become a one-on-one battle. You're not responsible for all of them but you can try to be responsible for about half. The turnover contest is probably the most intense battle a seven has.'
After the defeat by Samoa, the Welsh public made their feelings clear.
Warburton's sister quit Twitter at the weekend because she was fed up of reading the abuse the players were getting.
Wales are in genuine danger of slipping outside the world's top eight by the end of the autumn internationals – which would leave them facing two teams ranked higher in their World Cup group when the draw is made on December 3 – but Warburton believes they can turn it around.
'The players aren't going to forget the way we played back in the World Cup, in the Six Nations and in the summer – that doesn't just go with the click of the fingers,' he said.
Relishing it: Warburton is looking forward to going up against Richie McCaw (right)
'It's the same players. It's not as if it's a new squad and we've brought new guys in. We're just going through a rough patch but we know we can pull it out the bag.
'It's definitely been the toughest time since I've been involved in the starting team. That's five Tests on the bounce we've lost and I haven't experienced that before.
'It's easier when you're winning and it's a test now for a lot of the leaders in the squad to make sure that we put things right. I couldn't play solo sports because I'd beat myself up. We're a great bunch of lads, good mates, and as long as we stay tight and keep working our nuts off we'll get the rewards.'
Warburton has downplayed the return of Gatland, but the head coach must do something radical. 'Warren's been floating around the camp anyway and not too much has changed because the environment has stayed the same with Rob.
Underdogs: Warburton claims the pressure is off when Wales welcome New Zealand
The intensity in training has been similar but I'm sure his presence will be felt, as a great coach, and hopefully that can be a factor in playing better next week.'
As for the weekend, the pressure is off. 'I guess now there's no pressure on us because nobody will expect anything on Saturday. It's a game which I'll always look forward to, playing the All Blacks at home. That's why it's sold out.
'That's why there are underdogs in sport. If it was predictable nobody would watch it. There's every chance we can win on Saturday.
'We have to believe we can win. Whether people think that's realistic or not is up to them.'