Wales skipper Sam Warburton’s growing reputation has been handed another boost with the Cardiff Blues flanker scooping the rugby union writers’ club personality of the year award for 2011.
Warburton – who played in the RaboDirect PRO12 defeat against Leinster on Saturday – enjoyed a breakthrough last 12 months morphing from a second-choice international openside to the Welsh captaincy and one of the stars of the World Cup.
Belying his tenders years Warburton, 23, won plaudits left, right and centre in New Zealand despite blotting his copy book in unforgettable fashion by being sent off in Wales’ semi-final defeat against France.
Despite that setback, and the considerable records of his competition to take the crown, most notably World Cup-winning coach Graham Henry, Warburton emerged as the rugby writers’ top dog for 2011.
And RUWC chairman Paul Morgan insisted such were the displays of the Welshman that he has propelled himself into contention for the British and Irish Lions captaincy.
“Sam has had an exemplary year, leading Wales with great dignity, marking himself out as one of the leading candidates to captain the Lions in 2013,” said Morgan.
“He's a worthy recipient of the Pat Marshall Trophy, just beating Graham Henry in a poll of rugby media. He joins an illustrious list of winners.”