Warburton: England up there with All Blacks

Wed, 08 Feb 2017 16:14
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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Wales star Sam Warburton has compared arch-rivals England to world champions New Zealand ahead of their Six Nations clash in Cardiff on Saturday.

Grand Slam champions England will arrive in the Welsh capital aiming for a 16th successive Test match win against all opponents.

The All Blacks hold the world record of 18 straight international wins by a tier-one nation, but another Six Nations clean sweep this season would see England go one better.

"England are deservedly tagged as the best team in the Northern Hemisphere," Warburton told the BBC.

"It's a fair judgment to compare them to the All Blacks right now - that's how good they are. It is going to take a huge game out of us to get a win and it will be one of the biggest games of the championship for sure."

Even when they are not one of the world's leading teams, England, for historical reasons, remain the one their European rivals want to beat above all others.

But they have become an even bigger target under Eddie Jones, with the Australian yet to lose a match as England boss after taking over after a 2015 World Cup where defeat by Wales prevented England getting out of the group stage and played a major role in the sacking of Stuart Lancaster.

"If you're Wales the biggest game you play in the Six Nations is England," said the back row forward and former skipper Warburton.

"If you're Scotland, it's England. If you're Ireland, it's England. Or if you're France or Italy, it's England," added Warburton, whose father was born in England.

"We know as players that's the one game the fans look forward to most and you sense that in the build-up. It's a huge occasion for everyone in Wales."

England, who beat Wales twice in 2016, started the defence of their Six Nations title with an unconvincing 19-16 win against France at Twickenham on Saturday.

By contrast, Wales launched their Six Nations with a 33-7 win away to Italy the following day that included 30 unanswered points in the second half in Rome.

Warburton, back in the ranks this season after experienced lock Alun Wyn Jones was appointed captain by interim coach Rob Howley, could miss out on a starting berth against England if No 8 Taulupe Faletau recovers in time from a knee injury.

Ross Moriarty was at No.8 against Italy in a back row featuring Warburton and Justin Tipuric.

"The back row competition is so fierce at the minute, I don't want to put pressure on him, but Toby [Faletau], when he's playing well, is one of the best players in the world," said Warburton.

"If he did come back I'm sure there would be a few selection headaches in the back row because Ross and Justin went extremely well against Italy."

England and Wales will name their teams on Thursday.

Agence France-Presse

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 15 December 2017
Ulster v Harlequins 19h45 Kingspan Stadium
Sat, 16 December 2017
Treviso v Scarlets 13h00 Stadio Comunale di Monigo
Montpellier v Glasgow Warriors 13h00 Altrad Stadium
Leinster v Exeter Chiefs 15h15 Aviva Stadium
Racing Metro v Castres 15h15 Stade Yves-du-Manoir
Bath v Toulon 17h30 Recreation Ground
Sun, 17 December 2017
Wasps v La Rochelle 13h00 Ricoh Arena
Clermont Auvergne v Saracens 15h15 Stade Marcel-Michelin
Ospreys v Northampton Saints 15h15 Liberty Stadium
Leicester Tigers v Munster 17h30 Welford Road
Fri, 22 December 2017
Wasps v Gloucester 22h00 Ricoh Arena
Newcastle Falcons v Harlequins 22h00 Kingston Park
Northampton Saints v Exeter Chiefs 22h00 Franklin's Gardens
Leicester Tigers v Saracens 22h00 Welford Road
Worcester Warriors v Leicester Tigers 22h00 Sixways
Sale Sharks v Bath 22h00 AJ Bell Stadium
RESULT SCORE
Mon, 11 December 2017
Saracens v Clermont Auvergne 14 | 46
Sun, 10 December 2017
Exeter Chiefs v Leinster 8 | 18
Harlequins v Ulster 5 | 17
La Rochelle v Wasps 49 | 29
Sat, 09 December 2017
Munster v Leicester Tigers 33 | 10
Castres v Racing Metro 16 | 13
Northampton Saints v Ospreys 32 | 43
Toulon v Bath 24 | 20
Scarlets v Treviso 33 | 28
Fri, 08 December 2017
Glasgow Warriors v Montpellier 22 | 29
Sun, 03 December 2017
Harlequins v Saracens 20 | 19
Sat, 02 December 2017
Cheetahs v Scarlets 28 | 21
Munster v Ospreys 36 | 10
Wasps v Leicester Tigers 32 | 25
Treviso v Leinster 10 | 36
SIX NATIONS
MORE LOGS
Team P W D L Pts
England 0 0 0 0 0
Ireland 0 0 0 0 0
France 0 0 0 0 0
Scotland 0 0 0 0 0
Wales 0 0 0 0 0
Italy 0 0 0 0 0