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Warburton: Depleted England to cope

Wales captain Sam Warburton says group rivals England will not be affected by their troubled World Cup build-up.

England have been rocked by the loss of centre Manu Tuilagi and hooker Dylan Hartley over disciplinary issues, while outside-half Danny Cipriani remains part of Stuart Lancaster's World Cup squad even though a police investigation into a car accident will be hanging over him throughout their summer training camp.

But Warburton feels England's off-field problems will have no bearing on their Pool A meeting with Wales at Twickenham on September 26 or on the so-called 'Group of Death' which also includes Australia, Fiji and Uruguay.

"It didn't affect them in the Six Nations, they had a lot of players out but they come away from home and beat us," Warburton said. "They deserve a massive amount of credit for that.

"I've met Dylan Hartley, he's a great lad and he will be a big loss for them because he's a very good captain and leader.

"The same with Manu as I was hugely impressed when I played with him for the Lions.

"But I think England have got great strength in depth and they proved that against us in Cardiff earlier this year They will be okay."

Wales finished fourth at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand when they were considered among the fittest teams - if not the fittest - at the tournament.

Coach Warren Gatland plans to replicate those fitness levels with gruelling pre-World Cup camps in Switzerland and Qatar, where the squad will train first at altitude and then in the heat and humidity of the desert in high summer.

Toulon's Paul Stridgeon has also been brought on board as the Welsh Rugby Union's new head of physical performance and the former British & Irish Lions fitness coach will combine his new role with his existing strength and conditioning position at the European champions.

Openside flanker Warburton accepts the next six weeks will be a challenging time for every player but insists it is a period that he actually enjoys.

"These camps are brutal, but I'd rather be training in Switzerland or Qatar than out at war in God knows where, where the army goes," Warburton said.

"People always say 'Is it scary?' But it's just training and it's immensely tough, and I actually love it.

"I love that feeling of once you have been blasted and you finish you know the benefits you'll get from it will be huge.

"Even when I'm on holiday I go running on the beach or do something and tell my wife I'm just going to run up and down gently.

"But in the end she will come over and see me killing myself doing sprints. I just can't help it. If I am training I have just got to do it full-on."

Wales will return from Qatar for home and away World Cup warm-up games against Ireland and a Millennium Stadium visit from Italy.

England have a similar programme with two matches with France and a visit from Ireland, while Australia will have more competitive games in a truncated 2015 Rugby Championship against Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa.

But Warburton believes the World Cup is the one time in the rugby calendar when the northern and southern hemisphere nations compete on a level playing field.

"If we lost in the World Cup to a southern hemisphere team and I'm sure, vice-versa, nobody would blame the playing schedules," he said.

"It's probably the only one time when all the teams are happy with their preparation going into that period.

"We've got good preparation with three games and we got huge benefits out of playing England home and away, and Argentina last time around.

"We need the three games because the southern hemisphere teams are playing in the Championship and we haven't been together since the Six Nations.

"But, arguably, we are going to be fresher. They will have played a Super 15 tournament and the Rugby Championship before going into World Cup, but I think it's going to be pretty balanced."

:: Sam Warburton was speaking with Dove Men+Care, Official Tournament Supplier of Rugby World Cup 2015 and Official Partner of Welsh Rugby. For your chance to win tickets #scrumtogether on @dovemen.


From Belfast Telegraph