Warbs tipped to soar after captaincy burden lifted
Wales boss Rob Howley hopes that Sam Warburton can "get his mojo back" after replacing him with Alun Wyn Jones as captain for this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship.
Warburton, who has skippered Wales a record 49 times since taking charge in June 2011, joins 31-year-old Ospreys lock Jones - who has 105 caps - in a 36-man Six Nations squad that was named by Howley yesterday.
And Howley has no doubt that it is the right decision for Warburton and Wales as they prepare for a campaign that begins against Italy in Rome on February 5.
"Alun Wyn is vastly experienced, there is the manner he goes about things as a player, the respect and integrity he has among his peers," Howley said.
"He has captained Wales before, and the Lions in the third Test in Australia in 2013.
"I sounded Alun Wyn out a couple of weeks ago and had discussions with Sam in the autumn series in terms of him being injured and changing his role from openside to number six.
"I met up with Sam on Monday and had a discussion with him. No-one is guaranteed their position, and the one thing with Alun Wyn is he is the first name on the team-sheet.
"With the talent we have got in the back-row, we just feel at this moment in time as a coaching team that it is best for Sam to concentrate on being the best that he can be, to get his mojo back and play to the best of his ability. Sam agreed with it.
"That was the conversation. Sam is very humble and very honest. He's been a successful captain for Wales over the last six years, and no doubt his experience will be crucial going into a very competitive Six Nations campaign.
"He didn't speak of his disappointment. He probably will be a bit disappointed, but it's the best decision moving forward for both Sam and Wales.
"He is a world-class player and we want him to be the best he can be. I spoke to Sam and he agreed that it was the best decision that he should concentrate on his own game.
"The last six years, Sam has concentrated on being Wales captain and maybe it's about being selfish and looking after Sam Warburton. He smiled when we had the chat and I think, hopefully, we will see the best of him."
Howley, in charge of Wales this season while Warren Gatland concentrates on Lions business ahead of the New Zealand tour later this year, said he had spoken with Gatland over the captaincy situation.
"I phoned Warren when I spoke to Sam and Alun Wyn," he added.
"In fairness to Warren, he backed the decision."