Sam Warburton sparks political row after making 'British' claim ahead of Six Nations clash between England and Wales

Wales captain was defusing comments from the England camp that the Welsh were fuelled by hatred but has been criticised by a Plaid Cymru MP who has questioned his leadership suitability

Sam Warburton has found himself at the centre of a political spat after a Plaid Cymru MP questioned how the flanker can captain the Wales national team following his admission that he feels “British”.

In the build-up to this weekend’s crucial Six Nations encounter between England and Wales, Warburton was speaking in response to claims from the opposite camp that the Welsh were fuelled by “hatred” when it comes to their rivalry.

England make one change for crunch clash with Wales

Warburton captained last summer’s successful British and Irish Lions Tour of Australia, and in his claims he said that the players all got on well Down Under. Both England scrum-half Danny Care and wing Jack Nowell have attempted to stoke the flames ahead of the hotly-anticipated encounter, but Warburton – whose parents are both English – stressed that he has no ill-feeling towards the English.

 

“Both my parents were born in England, so I can't think that way at all,” Warburton had said. “I think people make a bigger thing out of it.

“All the lads went on the Lions tour and got on well with the English boys. If someone asked me my nationality (on that tour), I would say British.

“The players love (playing England) because the atmosphere is so good. They are massive games, but hate is a strong word.”

However, Labour’s Jonathan Edwards MP criticised Warburton via social media and questioned how Warburton can lead out the side if he doesn’t consider himself Welsh.

Lewis Moody on Six Nations: My five most memorable England v Wales matches

“I really find it difficult to understand how someone who does not consider themselves to be Welsh can be captain of the national rugby side”, Edwards wrote on his Twitter account.

His comments were quickly criticised by fellow-Labour MP’s, with Owen Smith, the shadow Welsh secretary, saying: “"I commend Sam Warburton for simply telling the truth about the proud, shared identities he has, as a Welshman and a British citizen.

“And I equally condemn Plaid Cymru for daring to challenge Sam's role as captain of Wales in light of his feeling of belonging to both Wales and the wider UK.

“I feel exactly as Sam does, as do millions of Welshmen and women in Wales and across the World.

“And anyone who has seen Sam play, both as captain of Wales and as captain of the British Lions, can be in no doubt about the commitment and the passion with which he pulls on either shirt.”

Silent streak of referee is music to Robshaw's ears

Edwards later backtracked on his comments and released a statement in which he said Warburton was right to try and defuse to situation.

“Sam was doing his best to de-fuse the unfortunate jibes coming from the England team that Welsh players were motivated by hatred when playing the old enemy,” said Edwards.

“He was right to do so. There is no room for hatred when representing Wales in sport or in politics or any other walk of life for that matter.

“It's about pride in our country, people, heritage and culture.”

He later tweeted: “One thing we can all agree on is that Sam is a great player and we're all hoping for a Welsh win on Sunday.”

Jonathan Davies returns to bolster Wales

Speaking to The Independent after the triumphant Lions tour, Warburton admitted that he could have played for England given his heritage, but from the first moment he pulled on a Wales shirt his mind was made up.

“My dad was born in London, but his family were from the north hence the name Warburton,” he said. “My mum was born in Somerset but she had a Welsh mother and father so I’m pretty much 50/50.

“As soon as I played for the Welsh Under-16’s I thought I could never cross over. But you do toy with the idea while you’re growing up, you think ‘Oh I could play’. My dad would always support England when it came to football, so I never really grew-up with the same sort of mentality of the English as a lot of the Welsh do. I didn’t really have that sort of grudge.

“So I never felt that really because I always used to support the England football team. But if you ask any Welshman who they support in football it’s probably an English club, so it makes you realise you’re kind of being a bit of a hypocrite. But no, it was always Wales for me since I played for Wales for the first time.”

Warburton will lead Wales out at Twickenham on Sunday as they look to maintain their quest for an unprecedented third consecutive Six Nations crown. With both Ireland and France joining England and Wales on two wins apiece, the victor at HQ will go on to compete for the championship in next weekend’s final round.

Read More: Gatland plays mind games with Lancaster's 'boys'
Warburton reflects on pride of leading Lions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world