British and Irish Lions 2013: Sam Warburton leads the victorious Lions home
Warburton and the rest of the squad touchdown at Heathrow Airport as Test series winners
Sam Warburton led the way as the triumphant British and Irish Lions touched down at Heathrow today following their series victory in Australia.
After a 16 year wait, Warburton and the rest of his squad finally secured a Test series victory over one of the Southern Hemisphere giants, with the historic victory secured with the record 41-16 victory in Sydney last Saturday.
In what was just the fifth series victory in Australia since the Second World War, the tour was the first overall win since Ian McGeechan coached the Lions to victory in 1997 on the tour to South Africa.
More than a hundred fans welcomed home the squad at Heathrow Airport earlier this morning, and the biggest cheer went up when Warburton appeared, the Tom Richards trophy on top of his baggage.
"It is a lot cleaner than it was Saturday night, that's for sure," Warburton admitted. "There were a few bottles of champagne in the trophy.
"It is a great feeling. It has been a long time coming this Lions tour so it is nice to come back with a trophy.
"It has only been done nine times in 125 years so all the players know they are part of a very prestigious group and are very proud of that.
"It won't sink in for a long time, I think. It feels quite surreal being part of a Lions touring party.
"Only four years ago I got capped for Wales during the first Lions tour. I got on the development tour and I never thought I would be in this situation four years later.
"Maybe in a few months' time or a few years' time I might watch back a DVD and realise what we achieved."
Warburton missed the series decider with a hamstring tear and, watching on from the sidelines, admitted he could not relax until the 75th minute.
"People might have thought I might have relaxed in the 60th-odd minute," he said.
"But, being the pessimist I am and knowing Australia can always strike back with a few tries in a few minutes, I could not relax until it was five minutes to go.
"I figured out in my head that they had to get a try every 75 seconds to win, which I would have backed our defence on that one. That's the point I start smiling and celebrating."
It has been quite a memorable week for British sport, with the Lions triumph followed by Andy Murray’s success at Wimbledon on Sunday.
Chris Froome currently leads the Tour de France having extended his lead by finishing second in the Stage 11 individual time trial, and success would see a second British winner in as many years following Sir Bradley Wiggins’ triumph last year.
The England cricket team will be hoping to keep the feel-good factor going as they kick off the Ashes today, with Warburton confident of Australia suffering yet more sporting woe.
"We will all be watching keenly," he said.
"We've got nothing to do for four weeks now but to watch cricket, so our eyes will be glued to the telly and hopefully they can do the job.
"I am sure they have had a massive influx of messages but the boys have sent good luck messages to them for the last couple of weeks now."
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