Jenkins to lead Wales against England
March 14, 2013
Prop Gethin Jenkins is set to become Wales' third captain of this year's Six Nations © PA Photos
Gethin Jenkins will lead Wales into their Six Nations title decider against Grand Slam-chasing England at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
The 32-year-old loose-head prop returns to the starting line-up at the expense of Paul James having recovered from a calf muscle injury and takes the captaincy from flanker Ryan Jones who has been sidelined with a shoulder injury. Justin Tipuric is promoted to openside in Jones' absence with Sam Warburton switching to blindside flanker.
Warburton began the championship as Wales captain but lost his place in the side through injury and despite a return to top form against Scotland last weekend, coach Rob Howley has opted to let him concentrate on his own game. "Sam really enjoyed the preparation last week, and then the way he played against Scotland - he was man of the match," said Howley.
"I think it speaks volumes for Sam. One thing about our squad is how selfless they are, and I said I would rather stick to my preparation (of last week). In terms of Gethin, he is vastly experienced and has captained Wales previously, including many times when Sam or Ryan has gone off in a game.
"Leadership is not just about the captain, it is about the unity within the squad. We are lucky enough to have a number of leaders who can step up, and Gethin has that responsibility that weekend. Sam has been outstanding over the last few weeks, and as I've said, it is about what is best for the Welsh team playing against England on Saturday, and that situation is Gethin Jenkins to be captain."
It will be the fifth time that Jenkins has led his country with the most recent occasion being the victory over Italy in last year's Six Nations. "It won't just be me making decisions out there on Saturday," said Jenkins. "There has been a big emphasis on leadership and more boys speaking up in this campaign. I think, from the autumn games this season, we felt we were a bit quiet.
"For me, it is just a case of slotting in, saying a few words today and tomorrow and just getting the boys' heads on for the game on Saturday. Ryan has done a great job. He slotted into it easily, and hopefully it will be the same for me. A lot of people have an input these days, and it is just a case of leading the side out on Saturday and playing as well as you can to lead the boys from the front."
Howley has no qualms about fielding Warburton and Tipuric - two openside specialists - in the same back-row. "Throughout the Six Nations, we've been consistent in saying we would like to see Justin and Sam play at some stage together," Howley said. "I was really pleased with the way Sam and Justin worked together last weekend (Tipuric replaced Jones in the second-half). They put pressure on the ball, and they are very smart, intelligent rugby players.
"We've got two world-class number sevens, two fetchers, two players who can be smart in the contact area, and those qualities will once again be needed in abundance. It's great to come towards the end of a championship when one team is going for the Grand Slam and the other has got the opportunity for the championship.
Howley has named an unchanged backline for the fifth game running, with Mike Phillips set to become Wales' most capped scrum-half with his 77th Test appearance. Jonathan Davies and Jamie Roberts will make their 14th championship appearance together, passing the previous Wales best held by Ray Gravell and Steve Fenwick. Two changes on the bench see James replacing Ryan Bevington and flanker Aaron Shingler featuring instead of a promoted Tipuric.
A seven-point victory for Wales should be enough to secure successive championship crowns - a feat they last achieved 34 years ago - although a win by any margin or draw would thwart England's Grand Slam bid.
"Six Nations tournaments are normally special, but to come to the end of a long campaign with everything up for grabs, it is going to be a special atmosphere on the weekend," said Howley. "I have said to the players to embrace it. We've been here before, it is not new territory for us. We are looking forward to the challenge."
Wales: L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), G North (Scarlets); D Biggar (Ospreys), M Phillips (Bayonne); G Jenkins (Toulon, capt), R Hibbard (Ospreys), A Jones (Ospreys), A-W Jones (Ospreys), I Evans (Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues), J Tipuric (Ospreys), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Replacements: K Owens (Scarlets), P James (Bath), S Andrews (Cardiff Blues), A Coombs (Newport Gwent Dragons), A Shingler (Scarlets), L Williams (Cardiff Blues), J Hook (Perpignan), S Williams (Scarlets).
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