Six Nations 2015: Captain Warburton plays down record ahead of France tie

'France will go and express themselves', says Gatland

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The Independent Online

When Warren Gatland approached Sam Warburton to be Wales captain, the softly spoken flanker did not really want the job.

So it is somewhat ironic that when he leads out the side against France in Paris today, he will equal Ryan Jones’ record of 33 games as Welsh skipper.

Warburton is a passionate football fan – particularly of Tottenham – who pores over autobiographies from the sport, most recently the latest book from Roy Keane, but has come to the conclusion that he is no snarling pit bull like the former Manchester United midfielder. It is a sentiment backed by Warburton’s team-mates, who, as one, point out that he does his talking on the pitch, while Gatland has increasingly taken to likening his skipper to Richie McCaw, who has led New Zealand for over 100 Tests.

 

It is a comparison that makes Warburton shift uncomfortably in his seat as the Cardiff Blues flanker talks modestly about his latest landmark. “It has sort of crept up on me quite quickly,” he said. “It was never a motivation. I was always focused as a young player to be able to play  for Wales. That has always been the important thing for me. It is nice to be able to achieve that.”

For a team that could not defeat France once in 11 encounters in this tournament between 1975 and 1999, the tide has turned, with Wales now bidding for a fourth straight victory over Les Bleus for the first time since the 1950s.

There is little to choose between the two sides today, although a France team that has appeared flat under Philippe Saint-André in their opening games have hinted at a bolder approach judging by the coach’s selections for this game, in particular Morgan Parra’s return at scrum-half.

“They have probably been at times relatively conservative in the way they have played,” said Gatland, “and I think they will go and express themselves a bit more and potentially throw the ball around.”

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