Six Nations: Sam Warburton insists Wales we take things one game at a time despite talk of an unprecedented hat-trick

Warburton could lead Wales to a third championship success in a row but the victorious British and Irish Lions skipper has stressed the importance of not getting ahead of themselves

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The Independent Online

Wales will need to buck a major trend in their quest for a third successive RBS 6 Nations title this season.

The bookmakers have installed Wales as favourites to complete a hat-trick, yet championship history suggests the odds might be against them.

On the last four occasions the season after a British and Irish Lions tour, France have lifted championship silverware - three times as Grand Slam winners.

France completed a Five Nations clean sweep in 1998 following the Lions' successful South Africa tour, then they repeated that feat in 2002 with another Grand Slam before again winning the title in 2006 and 2010.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland, who masterminded the Lions' Test series triumph in Australia last summer, accepts that his players must break a "hoodoo" as they attempt to conquer Europe once more.

And Wales captain Sam Warburton is relishing the challenge of a campaign that starts at home against Italy on February 1, followed by a Dublin appointment with Ireland seven days later.

"We always look forward to the Six Nations, it's what you're measured on," said Warburton, the 2013 Lions skipper.

"This is my fifth championship now, and I love playing in them. We have a chance for three in a row and to create history.

"People will talk about the three in a row, but we just take it one game at a time. We are concentrating on Italy.

"I have always said I would rather be a favourite than an underdog. All the players have worked extremely hard over the past few years to get to that level.

"It is nice people are saying on the outside that Wales are favourites, but no-one is underestimating how tough it will be to win the Six Nations again.

"I don't think for a second the players will ever become complacent."

Wales' Six Nations success story is in stark contrast to their autumn Test series results.

They have already won three Six Nations titles, two Grand Slams and reached a World Cup semi-final during Gatland's reign, but they can only boast one victory in that six-year period against either Australia, New Zealand or South Africa.

That one win came at Australis's expense in 2008, while they have not beaten New Zealand since 1953 and South Africa for nearly 15 years.

This season, both South Africa and Australia triumphed at the Millennium Stadium in November, yet Wales have consistently put those kind of defeats behind them and enjoyed Six Nations domination.

"Every autumn campaign we go into we always say 'this year is the year,' but it hasn't happened yet," flanker Warburton added.

"I am sure it will happen. We've come too close too many times and worked too hard as a team. Once it happens once, it will happen again and again."

Warburton, meanwhile, is battling to be fit for the Italy game, having not played because of a shoulder problem since Wales lost to Australia on November 30.

If he does not make the Italy clash, though, it is anticipated that he will return against Ireland.

"I haven't ticked the contact box yet, so until I have done that, I won't be ready to move on to the next stage," he said.

"The specialist said a while ago that I was probably looking towards the end of January, which has been pretty accurate.

"We will sit down next week and do what is best for the team, really.

"We have got the nice luxury of having a world-class openside flanker in Justin (Tipuric). It will be a decision based on what is best for the team."