Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Jones excited at Warburton return

Sam Warburton, left, is close friends with Ryan Jones, right
Sam Warburton, left, is close friends with Ryan Jones, right

Captain Ryan Jones is relishing the prospect of seeing Sam Warburton back in Test match action on Saturday when Wales take on Italy at Rome's Stadio Olimpico.

Jones has kept the armband despite Warburton - Wales' 2011 World Cup skipper and a Six Nations title and Grand Slam-winning captain last year - regaining full fitness following a shoulder injury. Wales beat France 16-6 last time and interim head coach Rob Howley has named an unchanged starting XV, with Warburton on bench duty this weekend.

Jones, though, is very much a reluctant hero, even though he has often been Wales' go-to man during a 71-cap international career that began more than eight years ago. The 31-year-old Ospreys star said: "The captaincy is only a title. I am happy to be involved, and I am enjoying it."

He continued: "If the captaincy comes along, great, but it is just about contributing to the team and helping it be successful. Sam is a mate of mine, and I have always tried to be there for him since he took over as captain. We chat over various things.

"Sam is very much his own man. You have to be true and honest to yourself, and if you are not then you are found out pretty quickly. Rugby is ruthless. It is still Sam's team, if you like, and we want him to be confident and playing well.

"We have been under pressure recently, and it is how you use those experiences. Leadership is not a conscious thing. There are far better players on the pitch than me, and it is about facilitating others. Age does not matter, but it is about making the right decisions at the right time."

Jones might have expected to be in opposition to revered Italy captain Sergio Parisse this weekend, but Parisse faces a disciplinary hearing tomorrow that could end his Six Nations campaign.

He was sent off for allegedly insulting the referee during last Saturday's French league game between his Stade Francais team and Bordeaux-Begles, with a minimum six-week suspension anticipated.

"We don't know yet (about his availability)," Jones added. "He's world class, there is no doubting that, and Italy rely on him heavily, as would any team he is in. He is a great athlete and he is very good in and around the set-piece. He's pretty special. We are preparing as though he is playing, and we will cross that bridge on Thursday."

And Howley added: "We are preparing the same, regardless of whether Sergio Parisse is going to be playing. We cannot control that decision. Parisse is world class and if he does not play it will have an impact, but we have to concentrate on putting our own house in order."

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