Ryan Jones is captain fantastic
RYAN Jones has been told to show why he is Wales’ captain fantastic by leading from the front against Scotland on Saturday.
Sam Warburton, captain since the summer of 2011, returns to the starting XV at Murrayfield this weekend but blindside flanker Jones will be the man calling the shots.
The 31-year-old from Newport led the team to glory in Paris and Rome and did so by example, producing a pair of sterling performances in the back row.
Jones, who has captained Wales a record 31 times, has proved to be a magnificent double deputy – both for Warburton and injured star blindside Dan Lydiate.
And interim head coach Rob Howley is delighted to stick with a winning formula as long as Jones maintains his high standards in the back row.
“I don’t see any reason to change the dynamic,” he said. “Ryan has been a great leader over the last few weeks.
“Obviously Sam is disappointed but it’s about the team and how Ryan has led, barring (poor) performance he will be captain again versus England.
“We just want Sam to go out and focus on his own game. He is a world class seven and is fantastic at the breakdown and the contact area and we will certainly need that against Scotland.
“We know that Ryan can lead and motivate the team. Now he needs to go out and perform as an international six, which he did against France and Italy and I am sure he will do exactly the same against Scotland.
“Warby has been a good captain and has enjoyed that responsibility but the nature of sport is that you can get injured and others take their opportunity.
“That’s what has happened and as a team you move on.”
Wales recalled Warbur-ton at openside in place of Justin Tipuric, preferring the former’s bulk to counter the power of Scotland’s back row at the breakdown. Howley said that the decision was a tough one – and relishes the same selection headache for years to come.
“It was a very difficult decision to make and I think that we are the envy of the home unions with our sevens,” he said.
“Their skill sets are different and we can pick and choose. I said to them that at some stage we will pick them together.
“We have to be in the mindset of celebrating having two fantastic sevens rather than it being Justin Tipuric against Sam Warburton.
“They are two well grounded, mature kids that just want to go out and play rugby.”