Six Nations 2014: Sam Warburton back to captain Wales 'after 15 minutes'


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The Independent Online

Sam Warburton will once again lead out Wales on Saturday, after being recalled to the starting line-up against Ireland in Dublin despite playing just 15 minutes of rugby in the past nine weeks.

A lack of match fitness meant Warburton, back from a shoulder injury picked up in the autumn, started last weekend's 23-15 victory over Italy on the bench but, after replacing Dan Lydiate late in the second half, he insisted he was ready to return full-time.

Warburton is one of three changes from the opening weekend, his recall meaning Justin Tipuric drops to the bench. A hamstring injury has forced Luke Charteris out of the match-day squad altogether, with Alex Coombes taking his place.

The only other change in the starting XV is Gethin Jenkins, not risked as a fitness precaution against the Azzurri, earning his 102nd cap for his country in place of Paul James. Meanwhile, uncapped lock Jake Ball is among the replacements.

Warburton, who will give the honour of leading out the side to Leigh Halfpenny for his 50th Test for Wales, insisted his injury lay-off will have no impact as the visitors look to stretch their remarkable away record in the Six Nations to six straight victories. "I'm quite used to not playing for a few months and getting back into it," he said. "It maybe takes a game to get the breakdown. I'm glad I've had that, to get rid of the cobwebs. I feel quite good."

The last time the home side won this fixture was in 2011 when Wales were victorious 19-13 at the Millennium Stadium. Since then, both sides have recorded an away win each, Ireland coming out on top 30-22 in Cardiff last year.

Gatland, for his part, is hopeful that sequence of events will continue on Saturday. "Ireland against Wales has tended to favour the away side," he said. "Hopefully we can do that again."

Gatland, who coached Ireland from 1998 to 2001, has called on his players to be "directors" against the Irish and to employ the sort of direct game that was lacking in the first half when the sides last met.