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Warburton unfazed by Lions rugby schedule

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 31/05/2017 Angelo Risso

The British and Irish Lions' gruelling match schedule on Kiwi soil has been the subject of much hand-wringing in recent weeks but skipper Sam Warburton insists the arrangement has its perks.

Warburton, his 40 Lions teammates and the side's coaching and support staff touched down in New Zealand on Wednesday ahead of their first match on Saturday against the Provincial Barbarians in Whangarei.

The matches come thick and fast for the Test selection, who will play at least one game every four days until their second All Blacks Test on July 1.

They'll play 10 matches in total across the six-week tour, culminating in the last of their three Tests on July 8 against the world champions.

Yet the 28-year-old Warburton, on his second tour as Lions skipper, felt the short turnarounds would help his side focus mentally.

The Welsh flanker was itching to get out on the field.

"What's nice is that you don't have a whole lot of time to think about the games coming up, like you would in a normal international week," Warburton told reporters.

"You actually enjoy these games a bit more, because they come so quick.

"It'll feel like there's all guns blazing."

The Lions are expected to take on the Baabaas with a squad made up mostly of players who took part in a Cardiff training camp two weeks ago - including the likes of Warburton, Stuart Hogg, Greig Laidlaw and Rory Best.

Like head coach Warren Gatland before him, Warburton admitted the side's result against the mostly semi-professional Barbarians side was secondary to performance and gelling as a squad.

But he'd still like the side to pick up a win, and set the tone for a campaign that will gradually increase in difficulty and physical intensity.

Shaking off the long-distance travel would also be important.

"You do get a good feeling in the camp when you win games but, realistically, these next three weeks are going to be big learning weeks - getting combinations together, getting our processes right at lineout, scrum time," Warburton said.

"Ideally, we'd love to win all of those games but, as long as we get better and better after each fixture, then that's good.

"If we won every game 3-0, I'd bite your arm off."

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