Warburton to become Wales' youngest World Cup captain

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The Independent Online

Sam Warburton could be excused if he pinches himself on being named Wales' World Cup captain barely two years after making his Test debut.

The 22-year-old Cardiff Blues flanker will lead a 30-man Wales squad in New Zealand next month.

He has won just 17 caps and only skippered Wales on three previous occasions - all of those games being this summer - but his pedigree as a leader and world-class player is unquestioned.

"To be a World Cup captain is one of the biggest achievements a rugby player could achieve," said Warburton, who once featured in the same school soccer team as current Spurs and Wales star Gareth Bale.

"It's my first World Cup, so it will be new to me. I imagine it will be the same as other Test matches, just a bit more intense.

"There is a lot of experience around me. The players enjoy each other's company, and it is going to be a positive camp to be around.

"We are in a good place at the moment."

Warburton, who made his Wales debut against the USA in 2009, was quick to salute his Blues colleague Martyn Williams - a veteran of 99 Wales caps - but who agonisingly missed out on a World Cup place.

And he also made clear Wales' ambition to thrive in a tough World Cup pool which also features South Africa, Samoa and Fiji.

"Martyn has been a great servant to Wales and he has been really supportive to me throughout my career," he added.

"In terms of South Africa, we have come close to them in the past. Getting out of the group is the minimum, and then it depends on the draw and how it goes from there."

Scarlets hooker Ken Owens is the only uncapped player in Wales coach Warren Gatland's group, although there are also a handful of inexperienced international players, including Newport Gwent Dragons front-row forward Lloyd Burns.

"It's totally awesome," said Burns, on his selection.

"I was just sitting in a cafe having a coffee when I heard the news, so I am a bit in shock.

"It's a bit of a dream come true for me. Last summer, I was working on a building site, and now I am going to the World Cup."

Owens is one of seven Scarlets players in the squad - the joint-highest figure with the Ospreys - although Owens provides their solitary forward representation alongside six backs in George North, Scott Williams, Jonathan Davies, Rhys Priestland, Stephen Jones and Tavis Knoyle.

Scarlets head coach Nigel Davies said: "I am delighted for Ken, who gets his first chance of a Wales cap after all the effort he has put in over the past two seasons and since returning from injury.

"To have so many Scarlets involved, particularly in the back-line, is testimony to the investment that has been made in the region's development plans to bring forward great Welsh talent.

"It's exciting to see talented young players like Scott Williams get their opportunity to appear on the biggest rugby stage at the World Cup. It is something that will only benefit our region in the long-term.

"We can take pride in a group of Scarlets international players who will come back to us more experienced, wiser and confident as a result of playing at the very highest levels and intensity."

Wales Rugby World Cup squad:

Backs: A Brew (Newport Gwent Dragons), L Byrne (Clermont Auvergne), J Davies (Scarlets), L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), J Hook (Perpignan), S Jones (Scarlets), T Knoyle (Scarlets), G North (Scarlets), M Phillips (Bayonne), R Priestland (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), L Williams (Cardiff Blues), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Shane Williams (Ospreys).

Forwards: H Bennett (Ospreys), R Bevington (Ospreys), L Burns (Newport Gwent Dragons), L Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons), P James (Ospreys), G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), A Jones (Ospreys), A-W Jones (Ospreys), R Jones (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), C Mitchell (Exeter), K Owens (Scarlets), A Powell (Sale Sharks), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt),