Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Jones hails skipper Warburton

Sam Warburton

Former Wales captain Ryan Jones has hailed Sam Warburton's World Cup leadership as "inspirational".

Jones skippered his country 27 times but lost the captaincy almost 12 months ago after Wales were held 16-16 at home by Fiji. Hooker Matthew Rees took over for the subsequent RBS 6 Nations Championship, but when he suffered a World Cup-ending neck injury weeks before the tournament, Warburton took over.

In his nine games at the helm, 23-year-old Warburton has led Wales to seven victories, and Ospreys back-row forward Jones said: "Sam is a great kid who has done nothing but lead by example on and off the field. He is inspirational in the way he conducts himself on the field, the manner in which he has been playing."

He added: "And likewise, off the field. Age is just a number when you have got someone who commands that much respect. He's very receptive to ideas and having a chat.

"There is a role for players like myself, helping him with his role and making sure he's comfortable so it doesn't distract from the way he is playing and he is able to excel the way he has done."

Jones, 30, is likely to be on the bench providing back-row cover for Warburton, Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau in their semi-final clash against France this weekend - but his World Cup could easily have ended just a few weeks ago due to persistent calf muscle trouble.

"It has been a hell of a six weeks for me," he added. "Three weeks ago, I had my plane ticket booked and I was going home, but I am still here and I am still figuring.

"I am thoroughly enjoying it. Crikey, we are in the semi-final of a World Cup, and I am still trying to contribute and be as much a part of that as I can be."

Wales have arrived in the last four after successive victories over Samoa, Namibia, Fiji and Ireland, and Jones has no doubt it will be business as usual this week despite the game's colossal stakes.

"The focus for us this week is just about doing the same as we have been doing," he said. "There are no second chances. It is about putting yourself in a position to give you the best possible opportunity of winning the game."

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