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England encounter 'too early' for Wales skipper Sam Warburton

Published 24/05/2016

Wales captain Sam Warburton is set to sit out next Sunday's game against England at Twickenham
Wales captain Sam Warburton is set to sit out next Sunday's game against England at Twickenham

Wales are set to be without one British and Irish Lions Test captain - but could be buoyed by another's return from injury - when they tackle England at Twickenham next Sunday.

Wales assistant coach Robin McBryde says that the England encounter is "too early" for national team skipper Sam Warburton as he continues his recovery from a shoulder injury suffered last month.

But talisman lock Alun Wyn Jones, who has not played because of a long-term foot problem since Wales' Six Nations defeat to England just over 10 weeks ago, is in the selection frame.

"Alun Wyn is good. He took a full part in training this morning," forwards specialist McBryde said.

"He hasn't had rugby in a long while. This game has been put in the diary in order for us to get up to speed - that intensity - before we face the All Blacks.

"Anybody who hasn't had that much rugby stands a good chance of being involved against England.

"Alun Wyn has made great strides. More time is going to benefit anybody, obviously, but at some stage you are going to have to dip your toe in the water and see how you react to games.

"He has progressed. He has followed the medical advice, and there is no better professional than Alun Wyn Jones, and if you couple that professional attitude with the medical team that we have got.

"They have worked wonders with players in the past, and it just goes to show when you follow protocols, anything is possible."

Jones, who led the 2013 Lions to a third Test win against Australia in Sydney, went off during the second-half at Twickenham when Wales suffered a 25-21 defeat in mid-March.

McBryde added: "Alun Wyn was frustrated (with) himself in the Six Nations because he couldn't reach the standards that he demands from himself.

"When you have got a player of that ability, he sets his own standards. That's great, really. From a coaching point of view, you haven't got to say a lot to him.

"I do hope he will get back up there pretty quick."

Warburton is on course to be fit for Wales' tour opener against world champions New Zealand in Auckland on June 11, and he has a major role to fill, given that Wales boss Warren Gatland has selected no other specialist openside flankers in his tour squad.

"This weekend will be too early for Sam, but he has taken part in parts in the rugby. He has done everything bar contact work," McBryde said.

"He is getting much stronger, feeling much better about himself, and that is evident in the way he is carrying himself and contributing to the meetings."

Prop Paul James, meanwhile, will have a fitness test later this week on a calf muscle injury, with Gatland due to name his team for Twickenham on Friday.

With Wales heading to New Zealand for a demanding three-Test mission and England tackling Australia Down Under in June, next Sunday's encounter is indisputably more about tour preparation than anything else.

It does, though, give Wales an opportunity to go some way towards erasing memories of a first-half no-show last time out against England, when they fell 16-0 behind and never really recovered, despite a late rally.

"This game has been put in the diary for bigger things, and I don't mean that disrespectfully to England," McBryde added.

"It has been put in there as a stepping stone to play the world champions on their own patch, and that is the way we are treating the game. It is there for us to have a taste of that intensity, and what better place to go.

"I know there are a number of changes in the England team, but the nucleus of the team that won the Grand Slam is there.

"They are riding on the crest of a wave, and that is going to filter down to the rest of the squad.

"To go there (Twickenham) at this time, you are not going to play in a much better atmosphere to prepare you in order to go on to New Zealand."

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