Six Nations: Gethin Jenkins back as Welsh captain allowing Sam Warburton to roam

 

Gethin Jenkins will captain Wales on the occasion of his 98th cap. The Toulon prop, who replaces Paul James in the front row against England, is preferred to former captain Sam Warburton following injury to Ryan Jones, who wore the armband against Scotland at Murrayfield.

The stand-in head coach, Rob Howley, insists that the decision was his, though it is understood that Warburton made it clear that he would prefer to concentrate on his own game rather than cope with the extra responsibilities that come with the captaincy.

"The way Sam played last week in Scotland, he just really enjoyed that preparation, getting man of the match. He didn't want to change anything. Gethin and Alun Wyn [Jones] are both experienced. Alun Wyn has come into this squad late and I felt he needed to concentrate on his game. Gethin is vastly experienced, has been captain many, many times.

"We are comfortable with the decision. Over the last couple of weeks we have spoken about leadership. It's not just about the captain but about unity within the squad. We are lucky to have a number of leaders who can step up. Gethin has the responsibility this weekend."

Howley was keen to emphasise the role in the decision-making played by Warburton, who started the Six Nations as favourite to take the Lions captaincy in Australia this summer. He insisted that Warburton was more than happy with the outcome.

"It is a conversation we have had. I've gauged Sam over the last three or four weeks. He has been outstanding when he hasn't been involved [as captain]. As I have said, it's about the team, being in the best form against England on Saturday. And that means Gethin as captain. His leadership will be invaluable."

Warburton will wear the No 6 jersey, with Justin Tipuric coming in at No 7 in place of Jones, who broke a bone in his shoulder during last weekend's victory over Scotland.

The freedom to roam unencumbered by the armband did Warburton no harm at Murrayfield last weekend, where he gave a man-of-the-match display. With the success in Scotland, Wales set a record of five successive away victories in the Six Nations, a statistic that contrasts sharply with their form at the Millennium Stadium, where they have yet to win this season.

Should they overcome by eight points or more an English team aiming for the Grand Slam, Wales will retain a championship that looked beyond them after the defeat to Ireland in Cardiff in the opening match. That loss was the eighth in a row for a group that won the Grand Slam themselves so commandingly a year ago.

England won the last of their 12 Grand Slams in 2003. To seal a 13th in Cardiff would be a first for the red rose, a detail Howley is keen to avoid. "Saturday is a big finale for the tournament, but we have a very experienced squad that has been in this position before and that has played in big games. That will be important, come kick-off."

Comments