Sam Warburton has described his British and Irish Lions colleague Ross Moriarty as Wales’ “stand-out player” since the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Moriarty is among 25 first-time Lions heading to New Zealand this summer in a squad that will be captained by Wales flanker Warburton.
And such recognition for the 23-year-old Gloucester back-row forward underlines how much progress he has made since being handed a Test debut against World Cup warm-up opponents Ireland 20 months ago.
“When I saw Ross’ name (in the Lions squad) I was absolutely thrilled for him,” Warburton said.
“It doesn’t surprise me one bit because he was probably one of Wales’ best players in New Zealand when we went there last summer.
“He is very quick, very explosive, very dynamic, a great ball-carrier, so aggressive in defence – he has been the stand-out player for Wales since the World Cup, really.
“Wales have had a quite stable squad, but he is the only person who has come in (to the squad) recently and made a massive impression.
“I know there are going to be some games (in New Zealand) where it is wet, as it is winter and stuff, but in general the tempo there is going to be out there will suit him down to the ground.
“He is a tremendous athlete, he is athletically similar to a number 13 with his attributes. He will be a great addition to the squad.”
Moriarty has started 12 of Wales’ last 13 Tests, including every game in this season’s RBS 6 Nations Championship, and he is certain to relish the competition for Lions back-row places with players like Irish trio CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahony and Sean O’Brien.
Now that the Lions’ 41-man squad for New Zealand has been selected, various numbers of them will assemble during set periods next month before departure to Auckland on May 29.
Warburton admits the packed tour schedule will not offer a lot of squad bonding or social time, but he does not see it as a problem.
“Looking at the fixture schedule, I don’t think there is going to be time for any team bonding exercises, it’s just spending time together,” he added.
“There will be an entertainments committee put together, they will put on fun things for the boys to do off the field, to get together and get to know each other away from the field.
“They are pretty trivial things that you do with all the squads you are involved in, but you have got to get the ‘off the field’ right.
“I always think with teams I’ve been involved in that a happy camp, more often than not, is going to be a successful camp. If you are happy when you turn up for training every Monday, if you keep morale up, you are more likely to get more out of the boys on the field.”