Lions captain Sam Warburton says New Zealand are still the best team in the world
By Allan Valente
Last Updated: 12/07/17 7:51pm
Sam Warburton says New Zealand are still the best team in the world as the British and Irish Lions arrived back in the UK following their drawn series.
The Lions landed at Heathrow Airport on Wednesday evening after a 15-15 draw at Eden Park in Auckland at the weekend ensured a series stalemate with the world champions.
Warburton, who captained the tourists, reflected on the achievement and said Ireland's 40-29 win over the All Blacks in November showed they can be beaten but accepted that Steve Hansen's side are still the best in the world.
Asked if the series showed that the All Blacks were beatable, Warburton told Sky Sports News HQ: "I think Ireland showed that last year, they had a good win last year, but players never believe the hype anyway, I think that is something which is built up externally.
"But without doubt, they are the best team in the world. They are back-to-back world champions, on their patch as well. We knew it was going to be the toughest challenge we could have had in our rugby careers.
"They are still the best team in the world. Just because we drew doesn't make us the best team, they have earned that right from performing so well over the past 10 years or so.
"Had it been anyone else I would've been disappointed but, I guess, you can take some positives out of getting a draw with the back-to-back world champions."
Warburton said the Lions squad had taken a couple of days to relax and wind down after the gruelling five-week tour.
"The boys had a good couple of days together to finish off the tour, you're under the microscope for six to eight weeks and it was nice to have a few days where we could just enjoy each other's company and reflect on what we have done, really," he said.
"In hindsight now, we are pretty pleased with what we achieved."
Warburton and New Zealand captain Kieran Read lifted the trophy together after the final Test and the Wales international brought the trophy back with the Lions squad, but he admitted he was not sure how long they would be keeping it for after the draw.
"I'm not sure how that works now, whether we have it for a couple of years, they have it for a couple of years, I'm not too sure but the boys were looking after it for the last couple of days and I'm sure we'll hand it back over there," he said.
It has been suggested that the game at Twickenham on November 4 between the Barbarians and New Zealand could become an unofficial fourth Test to the British and Irish Lions tour, but England have ruled out releasing players for the match and Warburton was unsure if that could work.
"I heard about that, I haven't played for the Barbarians, but I'm not sure how that is going to work," he added.
"The home unions will want their players to play and get ready for the autumn matches, there are 101 bridges to cross for that to happen but I'm sure the fans would love to see that happen."
The next Lions tour of South Africa in four years' time is set to be reduced to eight matches, down from 10 this year, and Warburton said a few tweaks to the schedule could help.
"I won't be around then, I'll probably be commentating or something," he said.
"I think the tour schedule was tough this time around and it was well publicised but we managed to have a reasonably successful tour so if nothing was changed in four years' time and we had the same schedule at least we know the Lions could go out and be successful again.
"So hopefully there are a few tweaks to make it more advantageous for us but looking forward to that tour in four years' time already as a spectator, probably."