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RugbyU: Wales captaincy no worry for Warburton

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Sam Warburton has insisted it won't bother him if he never regains the Wales captaincy even though his reticence could deprive him of the honour of leading the British and Irish Lions in Australia.

Flank forward Warburton was in superb form as Wales hammered England 30-3, their biggest margin of victory in 132 years of Anglo-Welsh clashes, at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday to retain the Six Nations title and, in the process, deny their arch-rivals a Grand Slam.

But rather than Warburton, it was Gethin Jenkins and Ryan Jones who lifted the trophy at the presentation ceremony.

Warburton started the Six Nations as captain having led his country to the semi-finals of the 2011 World Cup and last year's Grand Slam.

But he missed the match away to France with a shoulder injury and fellow back-row forward Jones, himself a former Wales skipper, was restored to captaincy duties for a run of three successive away wins which helped the Welsh retain the title for the first time since the 1979 Five Nations.

Wales, however, were forced into another captaincy change when Jones suffered a shoulder injury in the 28-18 victory over Scotland at Murrayfield that ruled him out of the England match.

Interim Wales head coach Rob Howley then approached Warburton about captaining the side against the English but the player himself stressed he was happy to remain in the ranks and change as little in the preparation that led to his fine display against Scotland as he could.

As a result, the captaincy passed to veteran prop Jenkins.

But if Warburton, who delivered a captain's performance in all but name against England, is so keen to concentrate on his own game that doesn't square with the numerous off-field duties that will be required of the Lions captain.

And that is something that won't be lost on Lions boss Warren Gatland, seconded from his day job as Wales coach to guide the combined side in their series with the Wallabies.

But, barring a fresh injury, there now seems to be little doubt that Warburton, with his all-action approach to the breakdown and in the tackle area, will be in the Lions squad itself.

"The (Wales) captaincy is a massive honour, but not to have it, I was able just to focus on myself," Warburton said. "If I concentrate on my own role, then I have done my bit for the team.

"The last two games it was a conversation with Rob Howley and we just thought to keep things as they were in the Scotland match and allow me to focus on myself again.

"For me, the most important thing is starting for Wales and making sure I can play well when I do that."

A victorious title defence seemed a long way off when Wales fell 30-3 behind to Ireland early in the second half of their tournament opener in Cardiff, a match they eventually lost 30-22.

"To do it in the way we did, to come back after losing the first game against Ireland is special," the 24-year-old Warburton said.

That defeat by the Irish was Wales's eighth in a row and fifth in succession at home, highlighting a series of losses to mainly southern hemisphere opponents since they won the Grand Slam.

"It was tough, losing those games. I hadn't been through that before as a player, but I think everyone has come through it much stronger," Warburton, capped 38 times by Wales, added.

"When we won the Grand Slam last year, we'd had a successful World Cup campaign, and having lost those eight games makes you appreciate the good times a lot more."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130317/rugbyu-wales-captaincy-no-worry-warburton