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Skipper Sam Warburton out as Wales ring the changes for Samoa game

The captain pays the price for last weekend’s defeat to Argentina in Cardiff.

Dropped: Wales' Sam Warburton.
Dropped: Wales' Sam Warburton.
Image: : David Jones/PA Archive/Press Association Images

WALES CAPTAIN Sam Warburton was dropped to the bench for Friday’s make-or-break autumn international against Samoa as interim coach Rob Howley made a raft of changes from the team that lost to Argentina.

Saturday’s 26-12 defeat by the Pumas at the Millennium Stadium was Wales’ fourth loss in a row and left them contemplating the prospect of suffering an autumn whitewash with Australia, who beat them 3-0 in a Test series in June, and New Zealand, who haven’t lost to the Welsh since 1953, heading to Cardiff.

Howley, much criticised for his selection policy after the Argentina loss, responded by making eight changes — some injury-enforced with lock Alun Wyn Jones out of the remaining autumn Test because of a shoulder problem — to his starting XV, with Warburton’s place going to Justin Tipuric.

As Six Nations Grand Slam-winning captain Warburton, who also led Wales to the semi-finals of last year’s World Cup in New Zealand, was on the bench, the captaincy passed to former skipper Ryan Jones, who is now set to lead his country for a record 29th time.

Howley, as well as giving starts to Tipuric and Jones, has also brought in centre Ashley Beck, outside-half Dan Biggar, scrum-half Mike Phillips, second row Bradley Davies, hooker Richard Hibbard and prop Paul James into his 1st XV.

Centre Jamie Roberts retained his place in the run-on side despite going off in the first half against Argentina with what the Welsh Rugby Union described as mild concussion.

Phillips was dropped as a disciplinary measure for the Argentina match by Howley because his commitments with French club Bayonne meant he was unable to attend a pre-series training camp in Poland.

But the British and Irish Lion impressed off the bench against the Pumas and Howley said Wednesday: “It is important to have leaders throughout the team, and we are hoping the likes of Mike Phillips, who made a positive impact last week, can bring his experience to the side.”

Howley added:

“With a short six-day turnaround it was important for us to freshen things up and also make use of the competition for places we have within this squad, something which has been a key ingredient for the success of the squad over the last 18 months.

Turning to Jones, Howley said: “Ryan reaches an impressive personal milestone…but in the context of what happened last week his and the team’s priorities are about producing a performance.

“We know we are under pressure to perform. This squad has shown in the past that we have the character and resilience to get back to winning ways. We have every confidence that we will come back strongly on Friday night.”

Samoa though have run Wales close in their last two encounters, losing a World Cup pool match 17-10 in Hamilton, two years after an even tighter 17-13 reverse in Cardiff.

Wales are currently sixth in the International Rugby Board (IRB) world rankings but risk dropping out of the top eight if they lose to Samoa, New Zealand (November 24) and Australia (December 1).

And that could have serious consequences for Wales come the 3 December draw for the 2015 World Cup in England.

The IRB standings will determine seedings for the draw and those teams outside the top eight face having to play two higher-ranked sides in the pool stage with only two nations qualifying out of each group for the quarter-finals.

Wales (15-1) Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Ashley Beck, Jamie Roberts, George North; Dan Biggar, Mike Phillips; Toby Faletau, Justin Tipuric, Ryan Jones (capt); Ian Evans, Bradley Davies; Aaron Jarvis, Richard Hibbard, Paul James

Replacements: Ken Owens, Gethin Jenkins, Scott Andrews, Luke Charteris, Sam Warburton, Tavis Knoyle, Rhys Priestland, Scott Williams

- © AFP, 2012

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