Mr Morris and Mr Williams by Sam Warburton

27th September 2013 at 01:00
The British and Irish Lions and Wales rugby union captain's competitive edge was sharpened by two dedicated sports teachers

I enjoyed my time at Whitchurch High School in Cardiff, Wales, but it felt as though it passed in the blink of an eye. I was a quiet, hard- working student, as dedicated to my academic studies as I was to sport.

Playing sport was something I always looked forward to, but I knew the academic aspect was the most important part of being at school. I worked hard to get my GCSEs and A levels; I revised like crazy. Being a twin brought that out in me, I suppose.

The environment the teachers created was great. I got on well with all of them - I'm not sure if that's because I was a teacher's pet or not. You would have to ask my friends.

Two teachers in particular had a huge influence on me and my rugby: Gwyn Morris and Steve Williams. Steve had been teaching at Whitchurch for decades, and had been a student at the school. Gwyn arrived when I was 12.

What linked them was that they were both very competitive, and together they made the school the same, not just in rugby but in all aspects of sport. For example, the sports facilities we had were second to none, and they arranged some excellent fixtures for us that we all looked forward to.

Gwyn was very professional and I liked his attitude and approach to the game. He showed great commitment and trained with us a lot. Not long after he arrived, he took the rugby team to a couple of schools' championships. He achieved this by bringing out the best in all the players. You knew that what you put in was what you got out.

Steve, as a former player, passed on plenty of wisdom. You could sense his competitiveness. He had a positive effect on all the players - especially me, because he was a former openside flanker, the position I now play in.

But although I loved rugby, I never let it take precedence over my other lessons. In fact, I once turned down the chance to play for the Wales rugby union sevens team in Edinburgh, Scotland, to focus on my studies. I wasn't a member of any school clubs and I didn't take part in any extracurricular activities, I just concentrated on my lessons and sport. I certainly wasn't in the school choir or anything like that - actually, my singing skills are shocking.

I was more of a science boy. Biology and chemistry were my favourite subjects, chemistry in particular. I had a great chemistry teacher and was really enthusiastic about it.

Gareth Bale (the Real Madrid footballer) was in my year and we shared some GCSE classes. He was known as an exceptional footballer from a young age. As a student he was generally hard-working and dedicated. It doesn't surprise me to see the success he is having at the moment.

I keep in touch with Steve and Gwyn; they're still teaching at Whitchurch. I text them regularly and often pop back to the school.

In the five weeks after the Lions tour this summer, I had a self-imposed media blackout; no press, no television. I didn't even go into town. I just wanted to step out of it all for a bit. The only thing I did was visit my old schools. I spent a whole day at Whitchurch, helping out where I could. It helped me to focus.

Sam Warburton returned to Whitchurch High to recognise the school's inclusion in the Welsh Rugby Union School of Rugby accreditation scheme, for its commitment to the development of rugby. He was talking to Darren Evans.

Captain's log

Sam Warburton

Born: 5 October 1988, Cardiff

Education: Whitchurch High School, Cardiff

Career: Rugby player for Cardiff Blues. Captained the Welsh rugby union team to the 2011 Rugby World Cup semi-final and the 2012 Six Nations grand slam. Captained the winning 2013 British and Irish Lions tour to Australia


The Welsh Rugby Union has teamed up with TES to launch a competition to recognise and reward teachers in Wales.

For more information go to www.tesconnect.comwales


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