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Warburton 'has no issues with ref'

Wales captain Sam Warburton will have no issues with Alain Rolland when the Irishman referees Saturday's Millennium Stadium clash against South Africa.

However, Warburton admits he does not know what kind of reception Rolland can expect from an anticipated capacity crowd.

Rolland controversially sent off Warburton during the 2011 World Cup semi-final against France in Auckland.

It meant Wales played for more than hour with 14 men after Warburton was dismissed following a dangerous tackle on Les Bleus wing Vincent Clerc. They lost 9-8.

Rolland, who was subsequently vilified by sections of the Welsh public, has not refereed a Wales Test match involving Warburton in Cardiff since that tournament.

Asked what type of reception Rolland could get, Warburton said: "I don't know, really. I am not sure what it is going to be.

"For me, if it (World Cup red card) happened again now and I faced the same consequences, I would completely understand.

"I still agree with what he (Rolland) said. As far as the laws go, you have to do it from a health and safety perspective. What the fans think, I'm not sure. Whether they have forgotten about it or not, you might have to ask them.

"I have barely spoken to Alain since the incident and have certainly never spoken to him about it. I joke about it now saying it was a PR stunt because nobody knew about me then.

"I only realised he was refereeing on Monday. I don't think it will have any bearing on how I work with the referee.

"I met him in the Italy match in the last Six Nations and we said hello. It feels like such a long time ago, I've forgotten about it until somebody brings it up."

Warburton will lead a side against the Springboks that features one new cap - 21-year-old Ospreys wing Eli Walker - and nine of the British and Irish Lions third Test team responsible for demolishing Australia 41-16 in Sydney four months ago.

Walker fills the vacancy created by Alex Cuthbert, who is nursing an ankle injury, while centre Scott Williams partners his Scarlets colleague Jonathan Davies in midfield, with Jamie Roberts (ankle) sidelined.

There is also a return for fly-half Rhys Priestland after he missed last season's entire title-winning RBS 6 Nations campaign due to an Achilles tendon injury.

Wales, though, have only beaten one of the southern hemisphere giants - South Africa, New Zealand or Australia - since Gatland took charge, and that Wallabies scalp was claimed five years ago.

Warburton said: "We want a scalp in a Welsh shirt now.

"To win the series for the Lions in Australia was immense, we will take massive confidence from that, but until we beat one of these (southern hemisphere) sides we can't call ourselves contenders for the World Cup."


From Belfast Telegraph