Warburton back to skipper Wales
February 21, 2012
Sam Warburton will skipper Wales against England © Getty Images
Wales flanker Sam Warburton has recovered from injury and will lead his side against England on Saturday.
The Cardiff Blues flanker missed Wales' 27-13 victory over Scotland nine days ago due to a thigh problem that forced him off at half-time against Ireland in Dublin a week earlier. But Warburton is now back to lead a team showing three changes from the one that saw off Scotland.
Wales' World Cup skipper replaces Aaron Shingler in the back row, while fit-again lock Alun-Wyn Jones is preferred to Ryan Jones and hooker Ken Owens gains his first Wales start. Owens, who made his Test debut during last autumn's World Cup campaign, is promoted off the bench as calf muscle strains sideline both Huw Bennett and Matthew Rees.
Sale Sharks forward Andy Powell drops off the bench and there is no place in the matchday 22 either for Shingler or lock Lou Reed.
The Wales back division is unchanged for the third successive Six Nations game, with wing George North having shrugged off an ankle injury that meant he made an early exit against Scotland. Alun-Wyn Jones, meanwhile, has not played Test rugby since the World Cup because of a toe injury, but he now returns to win his 60th cap.
"A fit-again Alun-Wyn Jones is selected based on his World Cup form and his experience as an international lock," Wales coach Warren Gatland said. "He gave us a selection dilemma, but it has been a great problem to have.
"While Ryan Jones is particularly unlucky to miss out on this occasion, this is just the kind of competition for places we have been striving for. Ken Owens has been waiting patiently for his chance and, while injuries elsewhere have meant he gets his opportunity this weekend, we are expecting him to take it."
Ospreys hooker Richard Hibbard, who was called into Wales' training squad two days ago, will provide bench cover for Owens. A win for Wales would give them their 20th championship Triple Crown and leave them needing victory in two home games next month - against Italy and France - to secure a second Six Nations title and Grand Slam of Gatland's four-year reign.
But they have only claimed one win at Twickenham since 1988 - a 26-19 success in 2008 that was Gatland's first Test match in charge of Wales.
Wales side to face England:
L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), G North (Scarlets); R Priestland (Scarlets), M Phillips (Bayonne); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), K Owens (Scarlets), A Jones (Ospreys), A-W Jones (Ospreys), I Evans (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons)
Replacements: R Hibbard (Ospreys), P James (Ospreys), R Jones (Ospreys), J Tipuric (Ospreys), L Williams (Cardiff Blues), J Hook (Perpignan), S Williams (Scarlets)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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