EXCLUSIVE: Warburton axed! Captain pays for Wales' dismal run as Jones takes over

By Luke Benedict

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Sam Warburton has been dropped to the bench for Wales's game against Samoa on Friday night, with former skipper Ryan Jones leading the side in his place.

Warburton, who led the team to a World Cup semi-final in 2011 and Grand Slam glory in this year's Six Nations, has struggled with injury over the past 12 months and his form has dipped as a result.

Interim head coach Rob Howley was under pressure to make changes to improve the side's form, especially after Saturday's dreadful defeat by Argentina.

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Dropped: Sam Warburton has been put on the bench and the captaincy has been handed to Ryan Jones (below)

Dropped: Sam Warburton has been put on the bench and the captaincy has been handed to Ryan Jones (below)

Ryan Jones

Wales have lost their last four Test matches and Warburton, who had been tipped as the stand-out contender to lead the Lions in Australia next year, has been singled out.

His replacement Jones lost the Wales captaincy in 2010 but the three-time Grand Slam winner has been one of Wales's most consistent performers over the past 12 months.

Wales' interim head coach Rob Howley has made eight changes from the side beaten 26-12 at home by Argentina last weekend, with starts for Tipuric, Jones, centre Ashley Beck, fly-half Dan Biggar, scrum-half Mike Phillips, prop Paul James, hooker Richard Hibbard and lock Bradley Davies.

Centre Jamie Roberts, meanwhile, is named in the starting XV after going off in the first-half against Argentina with what the Welsh Rugby Union described as mild concussion.

Mauled by Pumas: Wales crashed to defeat at home to Argentina on Saturday

Mauled by Pumas: Wales crashed to defeat at home to Argentina on Saturday

Saturday's defeat by Argentina was Wales's fourth consecutive Test loss, following their anti-climactic tour to Australia this summer. If they lose to Samoa - who pushed an in-form Wales side to the wire in last year's World Cup in New Zealand - then they may slip out of the top eight.

Rankings are notoriously complex to predict and that  worst-case scenario would require the Pumas beating France and Scotland beating South Africa this weekend, but with Tests against New Zealand and Australia to follow at the Millennium Stadium it is a real possibility.

It would be a nightmare end to the season for the Grand Slam champions, who had hopes of gaining fourth spot at the start of their autumn series.

Warburton, prop Gethin Jenkins, scrum-half Tavis Knoyle, fly-half Rhys Priestland and centre Scott Williams - who all started last Saturday - are on bench duty this time around.

 

VIDEO: Wales look ahead to game against Samoa



 

The comments below have not been moderated.

It amazes me that people think that Welsh players should take up 60% of the Lions team next summer. I'm not disputing they have had the best of the 6 Nations recently and they deserve to have a fair few players in but the fact is there record against SH teams both home and away is awful. They havn't beaten any of the SANZAR teams away from home in 25 years and the time before that was in the 60's so I think it would be a big mistake to put too many Welsh players in.

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He should get someone to teach him his National Anthem so that he isn't he only one mumbling on TV at the start of games for his country if he is picked again.

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Good changes. Ryan Jones shd never have lost the captaincy, but I suppose he suffered from being cleverer than Howley. I detect Gatlands hand in these changes, but they are yet again very unfair to Hook, whom they have messed around for years. He is better than Priestland and Biggar put together. Wales wdnot have been in such amess if they had consistently played Phillips and Hook as their half-backs for the last 5yrs.But, if they keep on with their dim ''biff n'bash ' game plan the Samoans will eat them. We need Welsh guile, but Howley may have squeezed it out of them in Poland.

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About time Warburton got dropped as he has not been the same since the England match, Tipuric is the form 7. Sam and the WRU must take the flack for rushing him back into the squad for the Australia tour as he is still not 100% fit. Ryan Jones may not be world class but he is very reliable. Lee from Neath, are you taking the preverbial when you say who is better in the Home Nation than Rhys Priestland? He is the worst 10 out of the all home nation starters. I'd even have Laidlaw over Priestland given the form over the past year

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Wherever Wales decide to play Ryan he never lets them down. He was soo unlucky to lose the captaincy and his place in the team. I'm pleased to see him back where he belongs.

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Lee from Bridgend, of the players you highlighted, of which half are injured, I would say the rest are playing well below par. Are you serious about Hook, Priestland and Halfpenny who missed two tackles that led to 2 Argie tries! You have to realise that rugby is also played outside Wales and I believe to a higher intensity. I hope Wales do better on Friday but I would not bet on it. - spencerd, New Quay, United Kingdom~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ You stated which of the Welsh team would play for the Lions when the time comes. You cannot say Halfpenny does not deserve his spot because he had a poor game on the weekend. He is without a doubt the best fullback within the home nations over the past year and will easily make the Lions team. Of the other players I mentioned, all (if fit) will make the starting XV, with the exception of Hook as Wales do not play him regularly enough at his best position of outside half.

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As a Rhondda boy born and bred, I can say that my feelings are that our national side stepped back 20 years in 80 minutes on Saturday. I find it hard to believe any of them would be picked for Lions duty after this latest defeat. With the easier (on paper anyway) games out of the way - Wales's training staff have a massive job to do before we play the others - or it's going to be another humiliating experience for all concerned.

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Lee from Bridgend, of the players you highlighted, of which half are injured, I would say the rest are playing well below par. Are you serious about Hook, Priestland and Halfpenny who missed two tackles that led to 2 Argie tries! You have to realise that rugby is also played outside Wales and I believe to a higher intensity. I hope Wales do better on Friday but I would not bet on it.

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How many Welsh players now will make the lions tour on present form? Before the AI's the press (mostly Western Mail) put the figure of at least 60% of the team including the captain. - spencerd, New Quay, United Kingdom, 14/11/2012 10:01~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I'd say that figure was about right. The AI's are only friendlies and Wales ALWAYS lose their first AI match for some reason. Who in your mind is better than Gethin, Adam Jones, Ian Evans, Alun Wyn, Warburton, Mike Phillips, Hook, Priestland, Roberts, North, Halfpenny or Williams at present out of the other home nations?

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why would it be a nightmare to be in the same group as england did wales not beat them at twickenham this year. wales play one game badly and suddenly they are rubbish get a grip people.

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