FORMER England skipper Lewis Moody has defended the decision of Wales interim boss Rob Howley to omit skipper Sam Warburton from Wales’ 26-19 loss to Samoa.
Warburton was replaced by stand-in skipper Ryan Jones for that match but returns to the starting XV for Saturday’s clash with New Zealand.
Howley and Welsh boss Warren Gatland, who is finally back at the helm for the All Blacks game, have both been heavily criticised by the likes of former skippers Jonathan Davies and Gareth Thomas.
But Moody, a World Cup winner in 2003 with England, has praised Howley for resting Warburton – who he believes has been underperforming for Cardiff and Wales in recent months due to injury. "I wasn’t too surprised to see Sam rested because he has been struggling with injury for the last six months or so really and he needed a break," said Moody.
"I think his recent injury record has affected his game and I think everyone can tell that he hasn’t been himself for some time and that will be getting at him.
"He has been fairly flat on the pitch for Cardiff and Wales and I think Rob Howley was right that if a player is not performing as well as you think he should then you should go for someone else who is pushing for that spot – even if it is the captain.
"Good teams have great competition at every spot and even the captain shouldn’t be safe, that is how it should be.
"I thought a good option for Samoa would have been seeing Tipuric and Warburton together at the same time because for me they are the partnership moving forward."
Wales have not beaten New Zealand since 1953 but after suffering humiliating defeats against Samoa and Argentina, Moody is predicting a very different Wales this weekend.
The form of Newport Gwent Dragons ace Toby Faletau has impressed Moody during the current autumn series, while the former England skipper has warned the All Blacks to be wary of a wounded Warburton. "Wales haven’t exactly set the world alight so far this autumn but the one shining light has been the form of Toby at No.8 who continues to impress," added Moody.
"He looks impressive but he backs that up in the way he plays the game. He is a great ball carrying back rower and runs through people.
"I also don’t doubt that Sam will be back but it is important for your captain to be playing at the very top of his game because they need to lead by example as everyone else falls in line.
"Missing last weekend’s game will motivate Sam."
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