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Warburton looking to make history as Wales target three in a row

The Cardiff Blues openside’s future remains in the balance, but those distractions have been put to one side.

Warburton and Warren Gatland mean business.
Warburton and Warren Gatland mean business.
Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

WALES CAPTAIN SAM Warburton insists that the civil war within Welsh rugby will not distract his side in their bid for an historic third successive Six Nations title.

No country has won Europe’s premier international rugby union championship three times in a row, but that is the goal in defending champions Wales’ sights.

However, the build-up to this latest title defence has been overshadowed by a bitter row between Wales’ four senior regional clubs and the Welsh Rugby Union over the future of the professional game in the country, amid fears of an increasing player exodus that has already seen several Test stars pursue club careers in France and England.

The club future of Warburton at the Cardiff Blues remains uncertain.

More immediately, a question mark remains over his fitness for Wales’ Six Nations opener against Italy in Cardiff on February 1 given he hasn’t played since November because of nerve damage to his shoulder.

But he was in buoyant mood at the tournament launch in London on Wednesday, even though Wales go into the Six Nations having been beaten by South Africa and Australia in November.

You always look forward to the Six Nations, Warburton said. “It’s what you are measured on.”

The back-row forward, the Lions tour captain when the combined side, coached by Wales boss Warren Gatland, triumphed 2-1 in Australia last year, added:

“Shaun Edwards (Wales’ defence coach) mentioned the three in a row in the dressing room after the Australia match. It’s a chance to create history.”

As for the off-field arguments bedevilling the Welsh game, Warburton said: “All that goes away when we are in the national camp where Warren has created a great environment.”

Meanwhile Warburton was cautiously optimistic about his chances of playing against Italy.

“I think I’ll be available for selection,” he said. “I need to have a chat with Warren Gatland and the medics early next week to decide what’s the best thing to do, whether that be go back to my club first to play a game.”

- © AFP, 2014

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