Even the ever knowledgeable rugby folk of Wales might need reminding Sam Warburton has already been the Welsh captain in a World Cup semi-final. However, they will not relish being reminded of the result or the fate which befell their revered openside.
It was 2008 at Rodney Parade, Newport, when Warburton led out the Wales Under-20s to face New Zealand. They were in touch at half-time, trailing just 10-6 to the mighty Baby Blacks. But then, the eventual champions opened up to prevail 31-6.
"Sam actually dislocated his shoulder in the semi, but although he required surgery, which was to keep him out for four months, he refused to come off and played on," Patrick Horgan, the coach of that team told The Independent yesterday. "He was pretty remarkable. His athletic ability was superb, his conditioning even back then was unbelievable. But it was his mental toughness. If his body broke down, Sam would just keep on going."
Added Horgan, now the coach of Neath RFC: "It was a good side with the likes of Jonathan Davies and Leigh Halfpenny also playing. In fact, eight of that XV went on to win full caps in the next three years. But Sam was obviously the best. He didn't shout and scream as captain; just did what he's doing now, leading from the front. I'm not surprised Warren [Gatland] had such faith in him. Sam would never let you down."