Warburton believes Blues can build Barca like dynasty

26 Apr

Blues openside Warburton is excited about the local talent coming through

WALES star Sam Warburton believes the Blues can build a Barcelona-esque  dynasty of success – and he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Welsh rugby has lost some high-profile palyers this season, not least at the Ospreys, and the great Barry John recently slammed  the regional game here as “stagnant, stale and lacking charisma.”

But Warburton feels the Blues is the perfect place to be.

“I guess I had the chance to move abroad, but it was never an option,” said  the former Whitchurch High School pupil.

“I’m a Cardiff boy and I’m as proud to play for the Blues as I am to play for  Wales.

“I was born and bred here, it’s a great city – a city I love – and they are  my local club, the club I always wanted to play for.”

Apart from the enforced retirement of Tom Shanklin, the Blues have managed to  maintain their stars and have even tied down their group of homegrown talent to  long-term deals.

The collection of young, predominantly local players includes Warburton’s  Wales colleagues Bradley Davies, Leigh Halfpenny and Tom James.

You can add to that scrum-half Lloyd Williams, full-back Dan Fish, centre  Dafydd Hewitt, wing Owen Williams and back-row Josh Navidi, as well as academy  product Andries Pretorious.

The group, who have all cracked the first team in the  past couple of years have come through the system together, and know each other  well.

It all smacks of another great sporting  production line in Barcelona.

“I hope so,” said Warburton when asked if the Blues’ local youngsters can  emulate the success of Barca’s current footballing crop.

“It’s really exciting times ahead and I think that’s shown in everyone  signing long-term deals.

“Everyone wants to stay for the future to achieve something, it speaks  volumes of how much they enjoy playing for the Blues.

“Some us are already established with Wales and Daf Hewitt and Andries  Pretorious have been probably our two best players  this season.

“I remember playing against Leigh at school level as we were in the same  year. We played together for Wales all the way through under-16, 18, 19 and 20  and I have known Bradley and Daf a long time through being in the academy set  up.

“We have all been given a chance by the Blues and we all really appreciate it  and are keen to repay them.”

It’s a point backed by scrum-half Williams who said: “For me 15 players who  really want to play for the Blues are going to do better than 15 guys who are  there for the money.”

And only the other week France and Toulouse back Maxime Medard warned that  too many imports into the French Top 14 could harm Les Bleus by hampering the  chances for academy talent to play.

“I would play harder knowing a mate was alongside me, who really wanted to  play for the club the same as I do, rather than a foreigner who’s just there to  clean up some money,” said Warburton. “You can’t blame players (moving for big  contracts), they’ve all still got families to provide for and that is obviously  a priority.

“But I think that’s for senior players, not young guys, it is financial. The  Magners League is still a great league and we’ve got two big games in front of  us to make the play-offs.”

To truly emulate the Catalan giants, Warburton knows the Blues must step up  on the European stage, and admits it has been frustrating watching others battle  it out in front of the big crowds.

“We have used it as a motivation,” he says. “I didn’t play in the semi-final  (against Leicester two years ago) so I would love to be a part of a big game  like that,” he said.

“I came on in Marseille for the Amlin final and there was a great atmosphere,  it makes you want more of it.

“The crowds are like Premiership football crowds, it’s the level we all want  to play at.”

So, as Warburton targets a return to action against the Dragons on Friday  after injury, his return and that collective spirit could still see the Blues  achieve their Magners title ambitions.

“We are good mates,” he said. “At the first sign of sun, Andries is trying to  get people round and there’s steaks being smashed over the barbecue. It must be  a South African thing!”

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