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Italy v Wales, February 23, 2013
Jones - 'Wales are still Warburton's team'
ESPN Staff
February 20, 2013
New Zealand do their best to bring down Wales captain Sam Warburton on the charge. Wales v New Zealand, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, November 24, 2012
Sam Warburton will be on the bench for Saturday's clash with Italy © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Ryan Jones | Sam Warburton
Tournaments/Tours: Six Nations
Teams: Wales

Wales' Ryan Jones insists that despite him being named as captain for Saturday's showdown with Italy in Rome, the team's figurehead is still Sam Warburton.

Warburton sat out Wales' second round win over France with a shoulder injury and following the team's impressive showing, interim coach Rob Howley opted to retain the same XV for the showdown with Italy on Saturday. The decision meant that Jones retains the captain's armband and will lead the side out for the 31st time while Warburton will have to be content with a spot on the bench.

But despite being named as captain for the match, Jones has been quick to emphasise Warburton's important role in the team's development. "The captaincy is only a title," the 31-year-old Jones said. "I am happy to be involved, and I am enjoying it. If the captaincy comes along, great, but it is just about contributing to the team and helping it be successful.

"Sam is a mate of mine, and I have always tried to be there for him since he took over as captain. We chat over various things. Sam is very much his own man. You have to be true and honest to yourself, and if you are not then you are found out pretty quickly. Rugby is ruthless.

"It is still Sam's team, if you like, and we want him to be confident and playing well. We have been under pressure recently, and it is how you use those experiences.

"Leadership is not a conscious thing. There are far better players on the pitch than me, and it is about facilitating others. Age does not matter, but it is about making the right decisions at the right time."

Jones might have expected to be in opposition to revered Italy captain Sergio Parisse this weekend, but Parisse faces a disciplinary hearing tomorrow that could end his Six Nations campaign. He was sent off for allegedly insulting the referee during last Saturday's French league game between his Stade Francais team and Bordeaux-Begles, with a minimum six-week suspension anticipated.

"We don't know yet (about his availability)," Jones added. "He's world class, there is no doubting that, and Italy rely on him heavily, as would any team he is in. "He is a great athlete and he is very good in and around the set-piece. He's pretty special. We are preparing as though he is playing, and we will cross that bridge on Thursday."

And Howley added: "We are preparing the same, regardless of whether Sergio Parisse is going to be playing. We cannot control that decision. Parisse is world class and if he does not play it will have an impact, but we have to concentrate on putting our own house in order."

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