Six Nations: Forget captaincy... I'm just happy to be back says Sam Warburton
Wales take on Scotland this weekend
For Sam Warburton, one out of two is an ample return. The relieved former captain was restored to the Wales side for Saturday's trip to Murrayfield – a contest that must be won if they are to cling to any hope of retaining their Six Nations title – but Ryan Jones will continue to lead the side for the remainder of the Championships.
Warburton began the season as favourite to lead the Lions, but now he is grateful just to be back in the Welsh starting XV. He will collect his 37th cap against Scotland as part of a hugely experienced line-up, yet it will have the feel of his first after he missed the France game through injury and was then named on the bench against Italy.
"Getting the captaincy back won't be a motivating factor, it will just be to play well," said Warburton. "It almost feels like winning my first cap again because of the need to impress. That feeling is really good. Not knowing whether you are going to be playing each week definitely puts you on edge more."
Justin Tipuric is unfortunate to be returned to the bench, where he began the campaign against Ireland – one of three changes to the Welsh starting line-up. Paul James also replaces the injured Gethin Jenkins in the front row and Alan Wyn Jones returns for a 69th cap in the second row in place of Andrew Coombs, another marginal call by Rob Howley, the Wales interim head coach.
Tipuric's introduction against Ireland revitalised the Welsh performance and he may well have kept his place even if Warburton had not been ruled out of the France game with a shoulder problem. Warburton came off the bench to good effect in Rome but was by no means a shoo-in for Murrayfield.
"In a strange way it was nice to be on that edge when it comes to selection and not knowing what will happen," said Warburton. "That's what pushes you in training. I'm back at that stage and it's good because it makes you do the extras in the gym or on the pitch, you just do everything you can to get back in the team. When you hear your name it's obviously a relief. Rob said it was because he wanted more physicality at the breakdown, so I guess that is something I slightly edge Justin on."
Warburton described Jones, who Howley said would remain in charge against England barring injury or a meltdown in his performance, as "the best captain I've played under".
"Ryan has done a great job and I don't see any need to change the team dynamics," Warbuton said. "Rob's said I can still have an input. It's not just Ryan on his own, he needs other guys – I might look closely at the contact area and how the referee is managing that, Adam Jones [can look at] the scrum and Alun Wyn the lineout."
It means Jones, one of 11 players in Wales' line-up with more caps than their opposite number, will extend his record run to 32 games in charge. "It is something I am fiercely proud of," he said. "It is a role I enjoy.
"When a call needs to be made it will be down to me, but Sam and others will be consulted at different times. They will certainly have input, not just in game-time, but in the lead-up to this game.
"It is an opportunity for Sam to concentrate on his own game, put all the other worries and stuff to one side and just go out and be the player we know he is."
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