Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Warburton: Naming team early a good call

Sam Warburton is expected to be on bench duty in Rome when Wales take on Italy in the RBS 6 Nations

Sam Warburton has praised Wales coach Rob Howley's decision to name his team a week early for next Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash against Italy.

Warburton, captain when Wales reached the 2011 World Cup semi-finals and for last season's Six Nations title and Grand Slam-winning campaign, is expected to be on bench duty in Rome.

"It was a great win out in France - I thought the team were absolutely awesome," he said. "And I thought it was good when they announced the team early because it has given us extra time to prepare. It was quite a smart call and we might as well take advantage of this two-week break in Six Nations games."

He missed the 16-6 victory over France because of a shoulder injury, and then less than 72 hours later interim head coach Howley announced an unchanged starting line-up that included Ryan Jones continuing as skipper.

It was not exactly what the doctor ordered for Warburton, especially in a British and Irish Lions year, but he has never been an individual to put himself before the team.

Had Warburton been fit then he would have started at Stade de France, although probably in an unfamiliar number six shirt alongside Justin Tipuric and number eight Toby Faletau.

Warburton added: "We have had eight or 10 sessions, rather than maybe three, perhaps. It should be one of the best-prepared we have been for a match because we have had that extra time together."

And although Lions speculation remains - some pundits believe that Warburton has lost ground in the race for places to tour Australia - he added: "It's something I will just have to bat off.

"I have got enough on my plate at the moment. It (Lions selection) is going to be, for any player involved, a special moment. But no-one is mentioning the 'L word'.

"The focus in this Six Nations camp is purely on the next match, and if there was any talk on that (Lions), players would be the first ones to give someone a slap in the face."

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