After guiding Cardiff Blues into the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup, Sam Warburton is determined to fire for Wales in the RBS 6 Nations.
Saturday’s 37-21 victory over Bristol was Warburton’s last duty in a Blues shirt before turning his attention to international affairs and he signed off with an impressive try-scoring performance.
For the first time since 2012, the flanker goes into the Championship without the responsibility of captaincy after he relinquished the duty.
Alun Wyn Jones has taken on the honour and Warburton insists he will do everything possible to support the new national team captain and hopes he can fire on all cylinders in a red jersey.
He said: “Alun Wyn is a vastly experienced player and he has more experience than me at international level.
“He knows I’m there for him whenever he wants but he’s been and seen pretty much everything in this game. That’s what makes him such a great candidate to be captain for this campaign.
You don’t want to put too much pressure on just the captain. He needs a bunch of guys beneath him who can do a lot of the ground work for him during the week in terms of organising things or the decision making.
You need guys around you and I’ve leaned heavily on guys like Alun Wyn, Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies and Ken Owens. They’ve had a big role to play when I was captain so I want to make sure I have that role and can help Alun as much as I can. It’s not a one-man job.
"I am at age and stage of my career where I know what I have got to do to play well. That was the main priority, to focus on what I want to get out of the game and play my best rugby that I possibly can.
"Not having the captaincy allows me to have a little bit more freedom. That is why I have made that decision in the past as well.
"Even though you are in a team sport, you do still need to be selfish, and performance has to be the number one priority, that's why this is the best thing.
“There are so many good sixes and sevens in the squad, that you have really got to bring your A game just to get in the 23. There is so much competition, and that's what I want, to try to bring the best out of me.
"I thought it would be good in that to not have the captaincy, it makes me have to work even harder than before to get in the team."
Warburton has been in fine form in recent weeks for his region and has already made more appearances than last season, benefitting from an injury-free run of form.
He has captained Wales’ Capital Region in the absence of Gethin Jenkins and recently reached the 100 appearance milestone.
And he is hopeful that run of fitness and form will be beneficial as he battles for a starting spot in an increasingly competitive back-row.
He continued: “It is great, it feels really good to have had seven weekends where I have started for the Blues.
“I normally come into campaigns where I am chatting to the coaches about trying to replicate match fitness and get some running under my belt.
“But at this point it might be the other end, I may need to look after myself now and make sure I am physically ready for selection time.
“I am really enjoying playing with Cardiff Blues, have got some good games under my belt, it is nice to have that continuity.”
Warburton undoubtedly has a huge future in the Test arena but reflecting on a memorable six-year stint as captain - in which he became not only Wales’ youngest captain but most capped captain - he picks out a 12-6 victory over South Africa as a particular highlight.
He added: “When I look back to when I nearly didn’t take it back in 2011, that would have been the biggest mistake of my rugby career and I am so pleased I didn’t do that.
“For me, back then I was completely out of my comfort zone, I didn’t want to do it all, which everyone knows about.
“But looking back on what it has given me and how it has helped me as a person and as a player, it has massively helped improve me.
“I have really enjoyed my time doing it over the last five and a half years and I would be kicking myself now (if I hadn’t).”
“People expect the Grand Slam win, but because I only played in three games, it will probably be South Africa in 2014.
“That was one big moment; players were always getting the question about the southern hemisphere, to finally get that, that was really satisfying.
“There were loads of moments, obviously 2012 was great and both World Cups were great, if I had to pick one it would be that South Africa game.”