Warburton gears up for his biggest game
Sam Warburton is ready to lead Wales' final push for RBS 6 Nations title and Grand Slam glory on Saturday, declaring: "It will be the biggest game of my career."
The Wales captain has recovered from a knee injury that meant he missed last weekend's Millennium Stadium victory over Italy. He replaces Ospreys flanker Justin Tipuric as the only change from that game, and Warburton is looking to make it a case of third time lucky against France this weekend.
Cardiff Blues star Warburton was sent off when the countries last met in a gripping World Cup semi-final at Auckland's Eden Park five months ago. France triumphed 9-8 but were outplayed by Wales for long periods of the game despite Warburton's dismissal after just 18 minutes.
"I have started against France twice, and I haven't made it past the 20-minute mark on either occasion," he said. "The first time I got injured, and then there was the semi-final, so it would be nice to stay on for a bit longer than that this time and have a good outing against Thierry Dusautoir."
Warburton has played just 120 minutes' rugby in the Six Nations this season. He was forced off at half-time during the opening weekend victory over Ireland due to a thigh injury, then sat out Scotland's Millennium Stadium visit before a knee problem suffered against England at Twickenham sidelined him for Italy.
But he added: "I am feeling great. I am really happy with the way (the knee) has responded. I ran on it on the morning of the Italy game - I'd had two weeks of nothing until that - so on Tuesday this week I could do pretty much everything at training. I had more treatment yesterday, and it feels great again today, so it's back to normal. I am 100% going to play."
Warburton dismissed any notion of a personal hangover from the World Cup defeat, which remains the low point in an otherwise upwardly-mobile career.
"There are much more important things to worry about this weekend," he said. "Getting my knee right is what my attention has been on.
"I remember watching the Wales Grand Slams in 2005 and 2008, and as a kid that is what motivated me to play rugby, really, when you watched those games.
"It is something you want to take part in, so every time I trained as a teenager I wanted to end up playing in games like this one, which is why I feel so lucky and privileged to be here. It will be the biggest game of my career, and it can't come soon enough."