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Gatland willing to start without Warburton after Tipuric's 'best performance in a Welsh jersey'

There’s only room for one lucky seven at a time the starting line-up.

WALES COACH WARREN Gatland says he is ‘willing to make the big calls’ and that includes dropping captain Sam Warburton if the need arises.

Warburton, an openside flanker, was not missed by his country during Saturday’s 16 – 10 win over Ireland in Dublin as Ospreys’ Justin Tipuric instead produced a masterclass on the deck to continually frustrate Joe Schmidt’s side.

Rugby Union - Wales World Cup Squad Announcement - Millennium Stadium Warburton listens to Gatland's glowing appraisal of Justin Tipuric at squad announcement in the Millennium Stadium today. Source: Paul Harding

“I thought it was Justin’s best performance in a Welsh jersey, not because of the things we know he can d,o but because he did it up front,” Gatland told WalesOnline after finalising his 31-man squad for next month’s Rugby World Cup.

“I have not seen him play that way and he was absolutely shattered in the dressing room afterwards. I have seen that with Sam in the past, when Sam has been that exhausted he hasn’t been able to move for 30 minutes after a game.”

Whether Tipuric has done enough to displace his skipper from the number seven jersey however, is a decision for another day. Yet even with Warburton seated next to him at today’s press conference it is a decision Gatland seems willing to mull over.

“We will pick what we think is the best team for each match we play. If that means Sam isn’t in the starting line-up so be it. We have proved in the past we are willing to make the big calls.”

The former Ireland, Wasps and Lions coach added: “To have the quality of those two players at our disposal is great.

“I want to speak about the qualities of the man next to me. Ever since he was offered the captaincy for the 2011 World Cup it hasn’t been about him but the team.

“If I say to him, ‘look Sam, I won’t pick you, I am picking Justin’, he will take that on the chin because the team comes first. That’s the measure of the man and we are very lucky to have that.”

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Sean Farrell

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