Blues flanker Sam Warburton has spoken of his admiration for Martyn Williams – the man he replaced in the Wales side for Saturday’s Six Nations win over Italy.
Warburton wore the No7 shirt for the 33-10 triumph against the Azzurri, with his regional colleague dropping out of the matchday 22.
But instead of the pair viewing each other solely as positional rivals, Warburton insists they enjoy the kind of healthy relationship that is bound to have a positive effect on the fortunes of both the Blues and Wales.
The 21-year-old openside was quick to praise Williams’ contribution in his own development, while also admitting that he hopes his own form will inspire Wales’ most-capped forward to continue at the highest level for at least another 18 months.
“I would like to think Martyn is pushing me very hard and hopefully I am doing the same for him. He is certainly helping to bring the best out of me,” said Warburton after winning his sixth cap against the Italians.
“It’s nice to have the competition and you want to have two players pushing each other to get the best out of one another.
“He’s a great guy to bounce ideas off. He’s a big help and he’s playing really well.
“As I have said before, hopefully Martyn can stay around until the World Cup.”
When it comes to Warburton’s own performances in a Welsh shirt, the former U-20 skipper has received plenty of praise, particularly from national coach Warren Gatland.
Having continually impressed for the Blues in his eight Magners League appearances so far this season, Warburton has now taken his form on to the international stage.
His performance against Italy at the weekend belied his tender age but the youngster won’t be getting carried away. Instead, he insists he is simply focusing on improving his game and featuring for club and country whenever he can.
“It’s always nice to please the coaches and I really wanted to put in a decent performance,” added Warburton.
“Hopefully I did that and I can take a lot out of the game.
“There’s always a pressure for me to take my chances when I get them. You never know when you put that jersey on whether it’s the last time you will do it.
“If you have a bad game and there is strength in depth in your position, there will be plenty of people to come in and take your place.
“There’s been a few injuries in the back row and, with Andy Powell’s situation, I have been fortunate to get my chance.
I was hoping for a couple of caps and thought that was a realistic aim.
“Whether that would have happened if everyone was fit, we don’t know. But I got three caps (in the Six Nations) and that was more than I expected.
“I feel I am making progress. Each cap I have won has got progressively harder and I just want to keep improving and gain some more experience.”