McBryde hails Warburton response
February 14, 2013
Sam Warburton could return to the bench against Italy © PA Photos
Wales assistant coach Robin McBryde has hailed Sam Warburton's "professional" approach towards fighting his way back into Six Nations contention.
Warburton captained his country to last season's Six Nations title and Grand Slam, and he was also skipper during a successful 2011 World Cup campaign when Wales reached the semi-finals. But a shoulder injury sidelined him for last Saturday's first victory over France in Paris since 2005, with Ryan Jones taking over as captain and keeping the job in an unchanged team to face Italy next weekend.
A place on the bench is now the best 35 times-capped Warburton can hope for in Rome after Wales' interim head coach Rob Howley decided to retain his Stade de France heroes en bloc.
"Sam is going to be put through his paces either tomorrow or Saturday. At the moment, it is all positive," forwards specialist McBryde said. "He is in the gym, he's working on a one-to-one basis with the medical team and everything is going in the right direction at this stage.
"Rob has spoken to Sam. He is certainly in a positive mood and he is taking everything in his step, as you would expect somebody of Sam's standing and maturity to do. He is the utmost professional, and it was good to see him throwing up his lunch on the training field yesterday, having worked that hard."
Fit-again lock Alun-Wyn Jones, another strong bench contender for Wales at Stadio Olimpico, will continue his comeback from shoulder surgery by captaining the Ospreys in tomorrow night's RaboDirect PRO12 clash against Connacht in Galway. Howley is expected to announce his replacements next Tuesday.
"Rob naming the starting XV (early) does send out a message to the rest of the squad," McBryde added. "You get picked on performance, and if you perform you will retain the shirt. "It's up to everyone else to work hard in training, work hard when they go back to the regions and show what they can do.
"That same XV deserves a crack at Italy. You have got to earn the shirt, and I think that is the message going out to everybody in the Wales squad."
Wales' 16-6 success at Stade de France put them back in title contention following an opening weekend home defeat against Ireland, but one area McBryde feels warrants attention is the scrum.
"To be perfectly honest, we've been disappointed with our performances in the scrum in the first two matches," he said. "We are not controlling everything to the best of our ability. It is something we need to put right.
"There are always a number of contributing factors. There are eight people going hard at it against each other, and we just need to be able to control things better and take a lot of the other things out of the equation. We need to come out a lot more positively, ask more questions of the opposition and take certain decisions out of the referee's hands."
Awaiting Wales will be an Italian side that lit up the tournament by defeating France 11 days ago, only to then suffer a comprehensive defeat against try-hungry Scotland at Murrayfield. But Wales know that things can go wrong in Rome, having experienced Six Nations losses there in 2003 and 2007.
"Italy did have a short week between their first two games, and that is a big ask," McBryde said. "You are always going to be slightly compromised because of that short turnaround, and having to travel to Scotland as well. They definitely weren't as accurate against Scotland as they would like to have been.
"We know what to expect in Italy. I don't think there will be any surprises on the day. It will be down to us, really, with regards to how we control the opening exchanges. We need to focus on getting that first 20-30 minutes right, and building from there.
"Italy really asked big questions of Australia and New Zealand in the autumn this season, then they beat France. I've no doubt that (Italy captain) Sergio Parisse will be working hard to get everyone in the same mind-frame."
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