Warburton confirmed as Wales captain

Sat, 24 Sep 2016 07:31
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NEWS: Sam Warburton has been confirmed as Wales captain for their November internationals against Australia, Argentina, Japan and South Africa.

Cardiff Blues flank Warburton, who has captained Wales on 50 occasions, also led the British and Irish Lions on their 2013 tour of Australia and has also been tipped to skipper the combined side in New Zealand next year.

As was the case in 2013, Warren Gatland is taking a sabbatical from his duties as Wales coach in order to guide the Lions. 

"Sam Warburton is a great captain," said interim head coach Robert Howley, who is again in charge of Wales in Gatland's absence with the Lions. 

"He captained the Lions, he will continue to captain Wales. I have spoken to Sam already, and he will captain us for the autumn [end of year] series and into the Six Nations.

"He has, of course, done it (led the Lions) once, and I am sure he is in other people's thoughts to captain again, but the challenge for all players will be the  series and the Six Nations."

England captain Dylan Hartley is also in contention to skipper the Lions, particularly given the hooker led the team to a Six Nations Grand Slam and a 3-0 Test series win in Australia during a run of nine straight victories under coach Eddie Jones.

And former Wales and Lions scrumhalf Howley accepted that, under former Australia and Japan coach Jones, England had become the team to beat in Europe. 

"It's a challenge for ourselves, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy," Howley said. "Eddie Jones has come in and they have played nine, won nine.

"As Eddie said, he mentioned in a quote that England should win [or challenge for] the [Six Nations] championship every year, so it's for all of us to do something about it and make sure we challenge that area.

"It was great to see their three Tests over in Australia. They've got their house in order under Eddie, and it is something we look forward to. 

"It's at the Principality Stadium (Wales' Six Nations clash against England in Cardiff on February 11), and it's a date in the calendar."

Howley, who has been a member of Gatland's staff since 2008, will have full responsibility for Wales this term.

His previous stint in charge of Wales in 2012/13 saw the side lose five straight matches, including all four autumn Tests, before recovering to win the Six Nations.

Gatland is set to stand down as Wales head coach after the 2019 World Cup in Japan but Howley added: "I don't see it as an audition.

"Autumn 2012 was a huge learning experience for me as a head coach," he explained. "Because Warren came back for the Australia and New Zealand games, that period was difficult with messages going back and fore between us. There was a lot of energy wasted, a lot of communication.

"We need to become better as a team, and if we can become better, we will be a difficult team to beat over the next 10 months."

Agence France-Presse