herald

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Wales make call on Warburton place

WALES coach Warren Gatland was today set to reveal whether captain Sam Warburton will be fit for his team's Six Nations title and Grand Slam bid against France in Cardiff.

Warburton has been battling to overcome a knee injury that sidelined him for last weekend's victory over Italy at the Millennium Stadium.

Prop Gethin Jenkins took over as skipper, while Ospreys forward Justin Tipuric packed down at openside flanker alongside back-row colleagues Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau.

If Warburton is passed fit -- the Wales camp have given positive indications all week -- then his return in place of Tipuric is likely to be Gatland's solitary switch.

A win for Wales against France at home on Saturday would give them a third Six Nations crown and Grand Slam in eight seasons, and the second of Gatland's four-year reign.

And it will be a red-letter day for one member of the Wales front row even before kick-off, with hooker Matthew Rees poised to win his 50th cap.

The feat comes after a demoralising chapter in Rees' career that saw him miss last autumn's successful World Cup due to a neck injury that required surgery.

"I felt sorry for Matthew the way it all happened to him before the World Cup," said prop Jenkins.

"I remember at our pre-World Cup training camp in Poland he couldn't sleep at night because of his injury. He was rolling around in his bed, he was in pain.

"I was glad he had the operation and he has come back really strongly. It is nice to see him back in the line-up.

"Someone sent me a picture the other day of us playing together for Treorchy, so it shows how long we have been around, but I think I have definitely aged better!"

If Triple Crown holders Wales make it a case of mission accomplished, Jenkins would achieve arguably the most coveted hat-trick in Welsh sport -- three Grand Slams.

Jenkins, along with Adam Jones and Ryan Jones, was part of the 2005 and 2008 Grand Slam successes.

Saturday's game was being billed as a potential Grand Slam showdown a few weeks ago, but France slipped off the pace after a home draw with Ireland and then a home loss to England.

But Jenkins said of Les Bleus: "They can play great rugby at times and the loss they had (against England) is only going to spur them on to come over and play well against us."

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