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Howley hopes Warburton can 'get his mojo back' as Jones takes Wales captaincy


Alun Wyn Jones will captain Wales in this season's RBS 6 Nations Championshiop

Alun Wyn Jones will captain Wales in this season's RBS 6 Nations Championshiop

Alun Wyn Jones will captain Wales in this season's RBS 6 Nations Championshiop

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.

The 31-year-old Ospreys lock, who has won 105 caps, takes over from Warburton in Wales' senior playing role.

Warburton, who has skippered Wales a record 49 times since taking charge in June 2011, joins Jones in a 36-man Six Nations squad that was named by Howley on Tuesday.

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 (British and Irish) 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."

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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."

Justin Tipuric starred in Warburton's familiar openside flanker role during Wales' autumn internationals this season, while Gloucester's Ross Moriarty has also emerged as a major back-row force since being handed an opportunity at Test level.

Warburton first skippered Wales in June 2011 at the age of just 22 and led them into the World Cup in New Zealand later that year.

Wales reached the semi-finals of that tournament - their best World Cup performance for 24 years - although from Warburton's perspective it will be remembered for him being controversially sent off by Irish referee Alain Rolland during an agonising semi-final defeat against France in Auckland.

He also led Wales in three Tests during a Six Nations title and Grand Slam-winning campaign in 2012, and again when they retained the title a year later.

And Warburton was at the helm for Wales' 2015 World Cup campaign, which produced a notable victory over England at Twickenham before a quarter-final exit against South Africa.

Jones, meanwhile, has led Wales five times in the past and captained the Lions in the series-clinching third Test win against Australia after Warburton missed out because of injury.

The Six Nations squad features a number of uncapped players, including Wasps flanker Thomas Young and Leicester back Owen Williams, although Ospreys teenager Keelan Giles misses out due to injury.

The other international rookies chosen by Howley are Ospreys flanker Olly Cracknell, Newport Gwent Dragons wing Ashton Hewitt, Scarlets wing Steff Evans, Ospreys lock Rory Thornton and Scarlets scrum-half Aled Davies.

Young's elevation is just reward for a series of outstanding displays this term in Wasps colours. Young, the son of Wasps' rugby director and former Wales international prop Dai Young, has excelled in a Wasps side pushing hard for European and domestic honours.

And Gloucester-bound Williams is another to be called up on the back of consistently strong Aviva Premiership form, offering Howley a quality act at fly-half or centre, plus another goal-kicking option.

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