Six Nations

Howley hopes axed Warburton 'gets his mojo back'

Sam Warburton (Getty)
Sam Warburton (Getty)

London - Wales interim coach Rob Howley wants Sam Warburton to "get his mojo back" after stripping him of the captaincy for this season's Six Nations.

Veteran lock Alun Wyn Jones will lead Wales instead after Howley, in charge while Warren Gatland is seconded to the British and Irish Lions ahead of the combined side's tour of New Zealand later this year.

While the 105-times capped Jones is the closest thing Wales have to a certain selection, the same can no longer be said of flanker Warburton with Justin Tipuric among those pushing for a starting place in the Welsh back row.

Warburton, who has captained Wales on a record 49 occasions, was, however, retained in Howley's 36-man tournament squad.

"Alun Wyn is vastly experienced, there is the manner he goes about things as a player, the respect and integrity he has among his peers," Howley said.

"He has captained Wales before, and the (British and Irish) Lions in the third Test in Australia in 2013.

"I sounded Alun Wyn out a couple of weeks ago and had discussions with Sam in the autumn series in terms of him being injured and changing his role from openside to number six.

"I met up with Sam on Monday and had a discussion with him. No-one is guaranteed their position, and the one thing with Alun Wyn is he is the first name on the team-sheet."

Former Wales scrumhalf Howley added: "With the talent we have got in the back row, we just feel at this moment in time as a coaching team that it is best for Sam to concentrate on being the best that he can be, to get his mojo back and play to the best of his ability. Sam agreed with it.

"That was the conversation. Sam is very humble and very honest. He's been a successful captain for Wales over the last six years, and no doubt his experience will be crucial going into a very competitive Six Nations campaign.

"He didn't speak of his disappointment. He probably will be a bit disappointed, but it's the best decision moving forward for both Sam and Wales.

"He is a world-class player and we want him to be the best he can be. I spoke to Sam and he agreed that it was the best decision that he should concentrate on his own game.

"The last six years, Sam has concentrated on being Wales captain and maybe it's about being selfish and looking after Sam Warburton. He smiled when we had the chat and I think, hopefully, we will see the best of him."

Howley, whose side begin their Six Nations campaign away to Italy in Rome on February 5, said Gatland had endorsed his change of captains.

"I phoned Warren when I spoke to Sam and Alun Wyn," he added. "In fairness to Warren, he backed the decision."

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