Warburton calls on clubs to drop ‘hard’ demand for extra money to release players for Lions tour

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Lions legend Sam Warburton is calling on clubs to drop their ‘tough’ demands for extra cash to release players for the tour … and the former Wales captain is backing England and Maro Itoje to lead the squad in South Africa

  • Sam Warburton says Lions shouldn’t be held in ransom for release on tour
  • Warren Gatland wants English clubs to release players for pre-tour training camp
  • Warburton has also backed Maro Itoje as the captain of the Lions this summer

Lions legend Sam Warburton believes that Premiership clubs shouldn’t hold on to the touring side to pay a ransom for releasing players, especially in this high-money Covid era.

English clubs have not yet agreed to allow players to participate in a Lions pre-tour training camp in Jersey scheduled for June 13, even though the regular season ends the day before.

Wanting more money for entry, as the camp is outside the international window when they have to release players for test duty, the clubs are still negotiating with the Lions.

Sam Warburton says the Lions shouldn’t be held to pay ransom for releasing players for a tour

And two-time Lions skipper Warburton thinks this attitude is unfair to players.

“I find it difficult to ask for more money,” he said. ‘Everyone struggles – sometimes you have to be a bit more sympathetic.

‘It is a sad thing that has come about with the football Super League, I don’t want it to be the case that money is being talked about in the sport, but unfortunately it is.

‘Players don’t want to speak up, that’s difficult for them. I wonder if the players are at the forefront of the talks.

Lions coach Warren Gatland wants English clubs to release players for pre-tour training camp

Lions coach Warren Gatland wants English clubs to release players for pre-tour training camp

If someone was in charge of Premiership Rugby who had been on a Lions tour, been a player and knew what it meant to the players, I don’t think it would be too much of a problem.

‘Playing for the Lions is the pinnacle. You have to have common sense and let players go. ‘

Warburton also supported England’s lock Maro Itoje, 26, who would become Gatland’s skipper in two weeks.

“Warren knows the pressure on a captain when they’re not a guaranteed starter,” he explained.

“I think there are six bankers to start a test match: Tadhg Furlong, Maro Itoje, Taulupe Faletau, Tom Curry, Anthony Watson and Stuart Hogg – who have managerial experience.

Warburton supported the English lock Maro Itoje to lead the Lions in South Africa this summer

Warburton supported the English lock Maro Itoje to lead the Lions in South Africa this summer

“I don’t think he’ll pick a back as captain, so the other player who has or wants leadership experience, I think, is Maro.

‘I was really impressed with him in 2017 and Warren would have been through all of that. The other captain candidates are a bit older. You wonder if it would be a bit too busy for them to make such a tour at the end of the season. However, when Alun Wyn Jones is captain, you know you’re in safe hands. ‘

While Warburton believes that Gatland will support himself to get more out of the Saracen contingent than Eddie Jones did with England in the Six Nations, he thinks there could be casualties in the championship.

“Jamie George, Owen Farrell and Maro are going on tour 100 percent because Warren really supports his training methods to get players fit without having to play,” he said. He’ll take comfort in having four or five games to get those guys ready for the first test.

Wales legend Alun Wyn Jones would be another great option for the Lions captain

Wales legend Alun Wyn Jones would be another great option for the Lions captain

“I do worry if someone like Elliot Daly or Billy Vunipola might be missing out – if Warren thinks Elliot has fallen out of shape and it would take Billy too long to get back up to speed from a fitness perspective.”

The World Rugby governing body has guaranteed that the Lions will be protected while looking to refresh the world calendar as part of a review of the game after Covid. Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont, a lion himself, said, “It is dear to me. In the calendar, we need to have the lions in it and maybe we need flexibility every four years to go on tour. ‘

Meanwhile, Darren Childs, CEO of Premiership Rugby, will be leaving in the coming weeks to become a consultant to private equity firm CVC – to which the league sold shares.

A much maligned figure, who had remained silent on important issues during the pandemic while overseeing the competition’s ring-fencing, it was believed that Childs was under severe heat from disaffected clubs and could have been given a vote of no confidence if he hadn’t stopped, according to sources.

Sam Warburton was speaking when Canterbury launched the British and Irish Lions Test Jersey. Get yours at www.canterbury.com

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