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Warburton: England are on par with New Zealand

By Andrew Baldock

Wales star Sam Warburton believes it is "a fair judgement" to compare England with world champions New Zealand at the moment.

The RBS 6 Nations title holders will arrive in Cardiff on Saturday chasing a 16th successive win against all opponents.

Victory at the Principality Stadium would also edge them closer to Six Nations silverware and a possible Grand Slam for the second season in a row under head coach Eddie Jones.

Wales, though, are undoubted ambush material, as spectacularly illustrated four years ago when Warburton and company not only wrecked England's Grand Slam dream in the 2013 tournament's final game, they claimed a record win in the fixture and won the title themselves.

Former Wales captain Warburton is set to line up against England for the 10th time in his career this weekend, and he said: "It is always a massive Test. It is one of the toughest games you will play in, regardless of what side they bring, as they proved two years ago.

"England are deservedly tagged as the best team in the northern hemisphere. It's a fair judgement to compare them to the All Blacks right now - that's how good they are.

"It is going to take a huge game out of us to get a win, and it will be one of the biggest games of the championship."

With both countries having won their opening Six Nations games last weekend, it served to only increase a sense of anticipation and expectation for the 130th meeting between traditionally fierce rivals.

"You can sense it, and we know as players during the build-up to Wales-England games that it is one the fans look forward to the most," flanker Warburton added. "I am not going to hide from that fact.

"I've realised in the past three years how difficult it is to win a championship. In 2011 (Rugby World Cup), 2012 and 2013 when we were pretty successful, I think we took that for granted a bit.

"Our record against England in the Six Nations isn't that great. I think we have lost the last three Six Nations games."

Wales could have number eight Taulupe Faletau back in the mix - he has not played since Christmas Eve due to a knee injury - which would make interim head coach Rob Howley's back-row selection task a fascinating one.

"The back-row competition is so fierce at the moment," Warburton said.

"Toby (Faletau) is, in my opinion when he is playing well is one of the best players in the world. He is unbelievable, a fantastic player. If he did come back fit, there would be a few selection headaches in the back-row."

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