Warburton dropped as Welsh Captain

by AFP

Alun Wyn Jones has replaced Sam Warburton as Wales captain for the upcoming Six Nations Championship, the Welsh Rugby Union announced Tuesday.

"It's an honour to select Alun Wyn as captain," said Wales interim head coach Rob Howley as he announced a 36-man squad for the Six Nations.

"His vast experience, as a player and a leader will help drive this squad forward and I believe he will flourish in the role.

"Sam has led Wales more times than any other captain and had great success in the role, however we want him to concentrate on his game and to be the best player he can be," former Wales scrum-half Howley added.

Coaches call to receive attention in Wales. Photo: Getty ImagesWarburton, who led Wales in a record 49 Tests since taking charge in 2011, has struggled with a shoulder injury in recent months and doubts have arisen as to whether the Cardiff flanker should be guaranteed a spot in Wales's first-choice back-row.

No such debate exists around the right of 31-year-old Ospreys lock Jones, a veteran of 105 Tests, to a second row position.

Nevertheless Warburton was included in the Six Nations squad announced by Howley.

Justin Tipuric impressed at openside flanker during Wales's 2016 end-of-year Test campaign, with Ross Moriarty also staking a claim to an international place.

Warburton first led Wales as a 22-year-old in June 2011 and skippered his country to the semi-finals of that year's World Cup in New Zealand only to be sent off in their narrow last-four defeat by France in Auckland.

He was also Wales' captain when they won the Six Nations with a Grand Slam in 2012 and again when they retained the title a year later.

Warburton led Wales at the 2015 World Cup, where they beat hosts England in the pool phase before losing to South Africa in the quarter-finals.

Jones has previously captained Wales five times and also led the 2013 British and Irish Lions in their series-clinching third Test win against Australia in place of injured tour skipper Warburton. 

Several uncapped players were selected in Wales's Six Nations squad by Howley - at the helm while Warren Gatland concentrates on his role as Lions coach for this year's tour of New Zealand - including Wasps flanker Thomas Young and Leicester back Owen Williams. 


Backs (15)

Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), Aled Davies (Scarlets), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Sam Davies (Ospreys), Owen Williams (Leicester/ENG), Jamie Roberts (Harlequins/ENG), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Ashton Hewitt (Newport Gwent Dragons), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Steffan Evans (Scarlets), George North (Northampton/ENG), Liam Williams (Scarlets), Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon/FRA)

Forwards (21)

Scott Andrews (Cardiff Blues), Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Rob Evans (Scarlets), Rhodri Jones (Ospreys), Tomas Francis (Exeter/ENG), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Kristian Dacey (Cardiff Blues), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, capt), Rory Thornton (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Bath/ENG), Cory Hill (Newport Gwent Dragons), James King (Ospreys), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Olly Cracknell (Ospreys), Ross Moriarty (Gloucester/ENG), Taulupe Faletau (Bath/ENG), Sam Warburton (Cardiff), Thomas Young (Wasps)

Wales, second last season behind Grand Slam champions England, begin their 2017 Six Nations campaign away to Italy in Rome on February 5.