Tag Archives: warburton

Sam Warbuton will stay loyal to Cardiff Blues

Warbuton will follow Cuthbert's lead and stay loyal to Cardiff



22:30 GMT, 22 December 2012

Sam Warburton is set to emulate Alex Cuthbert by securing his future in Wales with Cardiff Blues.

The Wales captain has been reassured over the club’s ambitions after they tied down Cuthbert for the next three years and he says he is ready to commit to his home team ‘for life’ when his current deal ends after next season.

Warburton, 24, said: ‘I would love to stay at the Blues for life and have my testimonial here.

Set to sign: Sam Warburton will commit his future to the Cardiff Blues

Set to sign: Sam Warburton will commit his future to the Cardiff Blues

‘In France you can earn three or four times what you get in Wales, but I would also rather play somewhere I’m happy and getting looked after.

‘It will be interesting to see the detail in the new WRU plans and what incentives they come up with to keep players at the regions.’

One of the main aims of the newly formed Professional Regional Game Board in Wales is to help the four Welsh teams hold on to their top players.

Newport Gwent Dragons director of rugby Rob Beale says they could help the club keep Toby Faletau, who will also be out of contract after next season.

Beale said: ‘If that is a stated aim then they have got to be involved in how we set about keeping Toby.’

West Brom target NextGen creator – Charles Sale

NextGen creator linked with Albion as West Brom seek to replace Ashworth



23:12 GMT, 3 December 2012

Premier League high-flyers West Bromwich Albion are looking at League One club Brentford for their next technical director to replace the FA-bound Dan Ashworth.

Albion want to give the post to highly rated Mark Warburton, who become sporting director at Brentford in 2011. He is understood to be making his mind up about the offer this week.

Warburton, a former City trader and academy manager at Watford, is best known for being the co-founder of the NextGen series, a burgeoning European tournament for Under 19s heralded as the Champions League for youngsters.

Target: Brentford's Mark Warburton is wanted by West Brom

Target: Brentford's Mark Warburton is wanted by West Brom

More from Charles Sale …

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I won't wear it: Lescott snubs the Kick It Out T-shirt… and Rio may follow


And it will be Warburton’s vision for young players that will have attracted Albion, who have lost Roy Hodgson and Ashworth to the FA in the last year.

Albion chiefs have indicated that they would want their appointment to spend some time working alongside Ashworth before he is released from a contract that runs until next July.

Girl power

Gabby Logan will give girl power within BBC Sport another boost when she replaces John Inverdale as presenter of the BBC’s athletics coverage next year. Logan hosted a couple of Diamond League meetings for the BBC last summer and she impressed enough to be given the position full-time. Ambitious Logan’s bargaining position within the Corporation was helped by her having turned down an approach by BT Sport to anchor their Premiership rugby programmes.

In the running: Jason Leonard

In the running: Jason Leonard

RFU battle

It wouldn’t be Twickenham without an internal battle looming even in the euphoric aftermath of England’s trouncing of New Zealand.

The RFU’s nominations panel have recommended old-school board member John Spencer to be the next vice-president. He would then progress to take over the presidency for the flagship 2015-16 season that includes the next World Cup in England.

However, there is plenty of RFU council support for Jason Leonard, England’s most-capped international, to be appointed for such a showcase year. Leonard has indicated he will stand for election.

Boris on his own

London’s grandstanding mayor, Boris Johnson, was the only dignitary involved in the Rugby World Cup draw yesterday not to take advantage of the huge autocue screen at the Tate Modern venue. Johnson would not have taken much notice of any official International Rugby Board text in any case as he kept referring to the 2015 RWC being in London, rather than England.

New Stratford fears

The bungling over the Olympic Stadium legacy looks likely to cost the troubled venue the chance to be named as one of the 12 stadiums for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

England and Wales were drawn in the same group and Stratford would be an ideal neutral venue for the group game between them. Twickenham, the Millennium Stadium and Wembley would also all be keen to host the match.

The London Legacy Development Corporation are expected to announce West Ham as their preferred bidders on Wednesday. But England Rugby 2015 and the International Rugby Board have serious reservations about the stadium being included in the final World Cup list in March because of myriad issues surrounding the development of the 500million track-and-field arena as a venue for other sports.

No go: The Olympic Stadium is unlikely to be used for the World Cup

No go: The Olympic Stadium is unlikely to be used for the World Cup

The IRB delayed the long-list announcement by a few months in the hope that the Olympic Stadium would be ready in time for the rugby showcase. Wembley has already hosted an England rugby international against Wales, albeit at the old stadium in 1999.

Football in the shade

England’s rugby union and rugby league sides have so far made more use of the FA’s 100m National Football Centre at St George’s Park than the team for which it was intended. Stuart Lancaster’s union squad, who spent a week in Burton before the autumn internationals, are back for another stay during the Six Nations. Roy Hodgson’s footballers have had just two days there since the centre opened and will have a similarly brief visit before February’s friendly international against Brazil.

Wales 12 Australia 14 match report

Wales 12 Australia 14: Nightmare autumn ends with late Beale blow as Wallabies nick victory at the death



17:31 GMT, 1 December 2012

Wales were condemned to an autumn series whitewash after Australia fly-half Kurtley Beale broke their hearts at the Millennium Stadium.

Beale scored a try with 26 seconds left to deny Wales victory and drop them outside the world's top eight teams ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup pool draw in London on Monday.

Leigh Halfpenny looked as though he had done enough in terms of claiming a priceless victory with four penalties, but Beale, who had earlier claimed a penalty hat-trick had other ideas.

Diving over: Kurtley Beale crashes home for the decisive late try

Diving over: Kurtley Beale crashes home for the decisive late try

Diving over: Kurtley Beale crashes home for the decisive late try
Match facts

Wales: Halfpenny; Cuthbert, Davies, Roberts, Williams; Priestland, Phillips; Jenkins, Rees (Owens 66), Andrews, Reed, Charteris (R Jones ht), Shingler, Warburton (capt), Faletau (Tipuric 66).

Pens: Halfpenny 4

Australia: Barnes; Cummins (Ioane 48), Ashley-Cooper, Tapuai (Harris 59), Mitchell; Beale, Phipps; Robinson (Slipper 61), Nau (Moore ht), Alexander (Kepu 67), Douglas (Hooper 52), Sharpe, Higginbotham ( Dennis 16) ,Pocock, Palu.

Try: Beale

Pens: Beale 3

Referee: Wayne Barnes (Eng)

Wales have now lost seven Tests in succession, eight on the bounce to Australia and they will be a tier three nation for the World Cup draw, potentially meaning a group of punishing proportions.

Wales produced their best display of
the autumn in head coach Warren Gatland's last game at the helm before
he begins full-time preparations for heading up next summer's British
and Irish Lions tour to Australia.

And his players almost did enough to
give him a quality send-off, but they could not keep Beale quiet during
the frantic closing stages, with the game ending when Halfpenny was
carried away on a stretcher before Wallabies skipper Nathan Sharpe
attempted the final conversion in his last game before retirement.

Several Wales players stepped up to
the mark, including Halfpenny, centre Jamie Roberts and fly-half Rhys
Priestland, who had his best game of a calendar year that had mostly
seen him struggle for confidence.

Powerhouse: Wales' Alex Cuthbert is tackled by Berrick Barnes and Ben Tapuai

Powerhouse: Wales' Alex Cuthbert is tackled by Berrick Barnes and Ben Tapuai

Flying in: Liam Williams is tackled by Adam Ashley-Cooper at the Millennium Stadium

Flying in: Liam Williams is tackled by Adam Ashley-Cooper at the Millennium Stadium

The overwhelming majority of a 58,000 crowd were not bothered by what had been a tryless affair until the final seconds.

Today was all about Wales rediscovering a winning formula, and they went agonisingly close to achieving it.

Wales, under interim head coach Rob
Howley's direction, will begin their RBS 6 Nations title defence against
Ireland in Cardiff on February 2, and it is a game that they can now at
least look forward to with confidence, despite the Wallabies loss.

Wales suffered a second-row injury
blow inside two minutes against New Zealand last weekend when Bradley
Davies was floored off the ball by All Blacks hooker Andrew Hore. This
time around, it was barely three minutes before a lock needed treatment.

Luke Charteris took a hefty blow to
his shoulder and head while attempting a tackle on Wallabies flanker
Scott Higginbotham, and Ryan Jones took over from the Perpignan forward,
who was helped off before returning shortly afterwards.

Saviour: Australia's Wycliff Palu dives to save a certain try from Toby Faletau

Saviour: Australia's Wycliff Palu dives to save a certain try from Toby Faletau

No way through: Wales forward Aaron Shingler runs into the Wallabies defence

No way through: Wales forward Aaron Shingler runs into the Wallabies defence

Beale, meanwhile, missed an early
penalty chance for the visitors, and it took Wales almost eight minutes
to relieve pressure in or around their own 22.

Wales finally stirred when they
ambitiously ran the ball from behind their own line and wing Alex
Cuthbert sprinted 60 metres before he was tackled into touch by
Wallabies full-back Berrick Barnes.

Even though their sense of adventure
had been suppressed by Barnes' quality defensive work, Wales at least
looked in the mood to produce some quality attacking rugby.

Beale, though, booted a 50-metre
penalty to open the scoring, before Halfpenny struck an equalising kick
from two metres inside his own half.

It meant ended the opening quarter
ended 3-3, but Wales continued to increase the tempo following an
uncertain beginning, and Halfpenny's second successful penalty rewarded
rewarded impressive work by a pumped-up pack.

Halfpenny, comfortably Wales' most consistent player of the autumn, then ran aggressively from deep to set up a scoring chance.

That's mine: Dave Dennis beats Shingler in a lineout

Take that: Sam Warburton tackles David Pocock

That's mine: Dave Dennis beats Shingler in a lineout (left) and Sam Warburton takes down David Pocock

Battle: Australia's wing Drew Mitchell is thwarted by Mike Phillips

Battle: Australia's wing Drew Mitchell is thwarted by Mike Phillips

Leigh Halfpenny

Kurtley Beale

Kicking game: Leigh Halfpenny (left) and Kurtley Beale traded penalties in Cardiff

His kick into space bounced behind
Australia's line, but Wallabies number eight Wycliff Palu just nudged
out Wales captain Sam Warburton in a desperate scramble for the ball.

Australia responded to that hairline
escape when another long-range Beale penalty tied it up at 6-6 as both
sides continued sparring away at each other in search of an opening.

Palu was then fortunate to escape a
yellow card after a high tackle on Wales hooker Matthew Rees, and the
home side continued to look most likely in terms of breaking the try

But a third Beale penalty put
Australia three points in front after Roberts was punished for not
rolling away in the tackle, and Halfpenny missed a penalty with the
half's final kick.

Charteris failed to appear for the
second period, with Jones going on as a permanent replacement and Aaron
Shingler moving up to second-row duties that he filled so impressively
last weekend.

No escape: Mike Phillips tackles Beale in the tight clash in Wales

No escape: Mike Phillips tackles Beale in the tight clash in Wales

Australia looked to move possession
wide early in the second period, and Wales were stretched at times. They
also needed Lady Luck on their side when Barnes ignored a three-man
attacking overlap by kicking instead.

A third Halfpenny strike tied the
game up again after 54 minutes, and then he restored Wales' advantage
six minutes later to set up an intriguing finale.

From then on, it was a case of Wales
attempting to close down the game and give Gatland only his second
victory against Australia, New Zealand or South Africa in 21 Tests since
he took charge five years ago.

But it was not to be as Australia celebrated and Wales once again were left wondering what might have been.

Justin Tipuric and Dan Biggar step up for Wales on fright night

Tipuric and Biggar step up for Wales on fright night



22:02 GMT, 15 November 2012

If Wales had put the world’s top 10
teams into a hat and picked out their next opponents, they could hardly
have selected a more dangerous fixture than Samoa on a Friday.

In many ways, it is a nightmare
scenario. Any team desperate for a win — a position in which Wales
surprisingly find themselves after four consecutive defeats — would do
anything to avoid a side they are expected to thump, yet a side so
capable of producing an upset.

Ryan's mighty: Jones will be captain

Ryan's mighty: Jones will be captain

Wales have history with Samoa. The ferocious Pacific Islanders have beaten them twice in World Cups, and even gave them a fright at last year’s tournament in New Zealand, before the side pulled together at half-time and set themselves on that glorious path to the semi-final.

And they have history with Friday nights, too. Their two most recent weeknight adventures at the Millennium Stadium have brought a forgettable draw with Fiji and a fierce defeat by England. Head coach Rob Howley has made five changes to the team who started the loss to Argentina with Scott Williams, Rhys Priestland, Tavis Knoyle, Gethin Jenkins and captain Sam Warburton on the bench.

Howley insists this is squad rotation, but dropping your captain when you are looking for your first win in six games — excluding a Barbarians exhibition — is not a traditional coaching policy.

Standing in for Warburton is over-qualified deputy Ryan Jones. He will captain Wales for a 29th time, breaking the record he held jointly with Ieuan Evans. If he enjoys a 16th victory as skipper, he will leap ahead of Howley with the most wins as a Wales captain.

On that decision Howley said: ‘Sam Warburton is a special player. He is still captain. Ryan has been an integral member of the squad. He is like the father figure of the whole squad and his form for the Ospreys and Wales over the last 18 months has been exceptional.

Big call: Wales coach Rob Howley

Big call: Wales coach Rob Howley

‘One thing we probably lacked against
Argentina, having Alun Wyn Jones and Jamie Roberts injured, was
leadership, and that is about the number of leaders you have in a team.
Wales is not about the one captain, it’s about more leaders, whether
it’s the back three, second row or props. It is important you create
leadership within a group.’

The two players in the spotlight are flanker Justin Tipuric and
fly-half Dan Biggar. This is a first start for Biggar since 2010 but the
coaches feel ready to trust him in the playmaker slot. It is a big
chance to shine, with Rhys Priestland wavering and Dan Carter coming to
Cardiff in a week.

Tipuric has been pushing for the No 7 shirt for a year now, modestly
waiting in Warburton’s shadow.

He is a machine in training, scarcely
breaking breath, and has arguably been the outstanding openside in the
RaboDirect Pro 12 this season. He is a natural scavenger and his bright
blue scrum hat is a blur when he hits breakdown after breakdown.

Samoa have been quietly acclimatising in North Wales, beating Canada a
week ago in a double- header at Colwyn Bay. Their line-up includes
familiar faces, led by Worcester wing David Lemi, who will have a
fascinating and full-on battle with rivals George North and Alex
Cuthbert. Scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i will run out against some of his
Ospreys team-mates, with Northampton centre George Pisi taking on Jamie

Samoa assistant coach Darryl Suasua is realistic. ‘Argentina playing so well did not do us any favours,’ he said.

‘Wales will be smarting over that and making sure they get things right.
They made a heck of a lot of errors but we don’t believe they will play
like that again.’

Last year’s World Cup match against Samoa was a turning point for Wales. It needs to be the turning point again.

Sam Warburton axed and Ryan Jones takes Wales captaincy

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



23:28 GMT, 13 November 2012

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.

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.

Centre Jamie Roberts will have a
final fitness test this morning before Howley names his side to face
Samoa, after he suffered concussion in the game against the Pumas. But
lock Alun Wyn Jones (shoulder) and flanker Josh Turnbull (knee) have
been ruled out of the remainder of the autumn series.

Roberts said: 'I tackled Gonzalo
Tiesi pretty upright and it was probably my fault because it was poor
technique. His head caught me right on the sweet spot on the jaw.

'I hope to play against Samoa but I
have to go through the protocols where you are tested rigorously. I did
not suffer any memory loss and hopefully I will be fit for Friday.'

Wales are in danger of slipping
outside the top eight in the IRB rankings before the World Cup draw is
made in December, which could leave them in a nightmare group involving
both New Zealand and the likes of England or France.

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.

Australia 20 Wales 19: Another narrow defeat sees Dragons whitewashed

Australia 20 Wales 19: Another narrow defeat sees Dragons whitewashed



07:44 GMT, 23 June 2012

A team so tired of the tag of courageous losers will have to endure the title for a while yet as Wales lost the third and final Test of this series against Australia by a single point in Sydney.

A brutal and occasionally bad-tempered match went down to the wire, but ultimately the defeat leaves the tourists without that elusive victory over the Wallabies on foreign soil. That tally runs to 44 years and counting.

Whitewash: Wales leave Australia without a win to show for their efforts

Whitewash: Wales leave Australia without a win to show for their efforts

A first half of penalties saw the Wallabies enter the break with a 12-9 lead, but Wales fought back with a second-half try from stand-in skipper Ryan Jones that put the visitors on the brink of history. Jones wrestled over from point-blank range but Wallaby centre Rob Horne answered immediately with a try of his own.

He fumbled over the line but television replays showed he just recovered control of the ball before hitting the deck. Sadly for Wales it was not to be.

Key moment: Rob Horne spills the ball under pressure from Jonathan Davies, but manages to cling on to touch down the winning score

Key moment: Rob Horne spills the ball under pressure from Jonathan Davies…

... but manages to cling on to touch down the winning score

… but manages to cling on to touch down the winning score

Key moment: Rob Horne spills the ball under pressure from Jonathan Davies, but manages to cling on to touch down the winning score

The toll of a long, hard 12-month season was paid with the loss of successive captains, first Sam Warburton to severe concussion, and then Ryan Jones to the blood bin, who wobbled off for a few stitches.

Head coach Robbie Deans had promised the 'shackles would be off' in this match but in the opening spell Australia looked to play conservative rugby and get points on the board.

Much to the misery of the crowd, the Wallabies showed their intent in securing a 3-0 series whitewash in only the second minute when Berrick Barnes opted for a drop goal. He pulled his attempt wide but took a penalty immediately after to give the home side the early lead.

Australia looked a threatening force with the return of firecracker full back Kurtley Beale, whose first touch was a well-timed miss-pass that nearly set Adam Ashley-Cooper free. Wales contained the threat and bit back almost immediately, Leigh Halfpenny picking himself up from a late hit from Sitaleki Timani to kick his first penalty of the day – and 11th successive kick of the tour.

Putting the boot in: Leigh Halfpenny continued his fine tour

Putting the boot in: Leigh Halfpenny continued his fine tour

The Australian scrum was under pressure but indiscipline from Wales saw Barnes and Halfpenny exchange further penalties.

As the game settled down, Wales put together an extended period of pressure, but the Australian defence held out and David Pocock was once again an unbearable nuisance at the breakdown, winning two crucial turnovers when his side were stretched.

Both sides did their best to play some rugby but South African referee Craig Joubert – the villain of the first Test – seemed determined to blow his whistle at any opportunity, awarding 10 penalties in the opening quarter alone.

Sea of gold: Fans enjoy the winter sunshine in Sydney

Sea of gold: Fans enjoy the winter sunshine in Sydney

Sea of gold: Fans enjoy the winter sunshine in Sydney

Late in the first half, captain Sam Warburton badly hurt his shoulder. He soldiered on for as long as he could, even putting in a couple of big hits with one working arm and a bad case of concussion, but he was replaced by Justin Tipuric in the 28th minute. More Wallaby pressure told and it was 12-9 at the half-time break after a forgettable drop-goal attempt from Rhys Priestland sunk wide.

The Wallabies started the second half with real purpose, spreading the ball wide with a determination to run the ball out of their half.

Wales had a lineout on Australia's 5m line but the driving maul was impressively stalled by the Wallaby pack as both teams pushed for an opening score.

Job done: The Wallabies celebrate their dramatic win

Job done: The Wallabies celebrate their dramatic win as Wales sink their heads

Job done: The Wallabies celebrate their dramatic win as Wales sink their heads

Paul James made a big difference to the Welsh scrum after the break and gave Halfpenny the opportunity to kick his side level, but his long-range effort bounced off the left post.

Wales so nearly scored the try of the series when George North countered out of his own 22, offloaded to Alex Cuthbert out of the tackle and Rhys Priestland kicked to an open up-field. Digby Iaone won the foot race to cover against Tipuric.

But Jones wrestled over soon after from point-blank range after a period of extended pressure. His first try since leading Wales to the 2005 Grand Slam.

Horne replied with a fumbling effort of his own, then the kickers again exchanged points as Joubert dominated the game with pedantic, disruptive refereeing.

Australia 25 Wales 23

Gone in forty seconds… Wales blow historic win and series in frantic finale



00:38 GMT, 18 June 2012

The tour that promised a tantalising glimpse of Lions future has instead delivered a nightmarish flashback to Lions past as brave visitors to the southern hemisphere have again excelled in the art of losing valiantly.

It is all so painfully familiar. Rob Howley's Wales suffered the same fate of Sir Ian McGeechan's Lions in South Africa three years earlier — a ferocious second Test culminating in a rash last-minute decision and a final heartbreaking kick to kill the series for the men in red.

Two-nil down with only one to play, the team now have two days off training to explore Sydney, regroup and rally for a final Test. They are certain to fight for pride but it is far from the prize they so badly coveted on arrival in Brisbane International nearly three weeks ago.

Kicking king: Mike Harris of the Wallabies slots home the winning penalty goal

Kicking king: Mike Harris of the Wallabies slots home the winning penalty goal

The players still seemed bewildered by
this defeat on the morning after the night before, mystified by their
own capacity to self-destruct. With 40-odd seconds on the clock Wales
were one-point ahead and comfortably in possession. Asked if he thought
it was all over at that stage, Australia captain David Pocock said:
'Yeah, until they kicked it.'

Rhys Priestland gave the Wallabies one
more chance with a long punt upfield and two penalties later
Australia's Mike Harris had kicked the winning penalty nearly a minute
after the hooter had echoed under the roof of Melbourne's Etihad

A buzz word in this Wales camp is
'emotional intelligence' and it means the ability to keep your head
together and stay composed under the intense pressure of a Test match,
particularly the opening and closing 10-minute spells. Captain Sam
Warburton believed his team had mastered that particular mental state,
clearly they have not.

Party time: Australia celebrate after recording their second victory over Wales

Party time: Australia celebrate after recording their second victory over Wales

'Well the plan was to keep the ball,'
he said. 'When the ball was kicked I remember even Ryan Jones shouting
“no” at the top of his voice. It wasn't what the forwards were planning.

'I thought we had learned those
lessons when we lost against the Barbarians last summer. I was captain
and I remember saying to myself that I wouldn't let that happen again.
Obviously the message wasn't clear enough.

'This result will drive us and
motivate us even more. We will make sure we want do not get on the plane
home losing 3-0 because we don't deserve that. We're much better than

For the coaching staff and a number of
players it was so familiar to the heartbreak with the Lions in South
Africa three years ago. For Rob Howley in particular it was another
visit to the 'dark place'.

'When you haven't beaten Australia since 1969 and you're 20 seconds from doing it, it doesn't get any worse than that,' he said.

Flying: Rob Horne of the Wallabies scores a try against Wales in Melbourne

Flying: Rob Horne of the Wallabies scores a try against Wales in Melbourne

Going nowhere: Australia's Digby Ioane (C) is tackled by Wales' Ashley Beck

Going nowhere: Australia's Digby Ioane (C) is tackled by Wales' Ashley Beck

Prop Gethin Jenkins was on the pitch
in Pretoria in 2009 and knows what it takes to rally for a final Test of
a decided series: 'Yeah it is deja vu with the Lions — last-minute
kick, series gone,' he said. 'Two minutes on the clock we should have
done something a bit different. We should have seen that game out, but
when it's as tight as that it's the responsibility of the 22 to nail it

'We won't be sleeping tonight, just
thinking about that last kick and how we should have drawn the series.
We'll take a bit of time off now to reflect on it and pick ourselves up
for next week.'

The lead exchanged 10 times during a
pulsating game. Berrick Barnes — who had become a father to baby Archie
only eight hours before kick-off — kept the Wallabies in touch after
George North and Jonathan Davies had scored.

False dawn: Wales' Jonathan Davies scores a try against Australia

False dawn: Wales' Jonathan Davies scores a try against Australia

Full back Leigh Halfpenny
is yet to miss a kick on this trip and the full back's flawless display
gave Wales a one-point lead with 12 minutes to play. They held out until
the final moment and now have one more attempt to become the first
Wales team to beat the Wallabies in Australia for 43 years.

As Warburton put it, catching a flight back to Cardiff with a 3-0 scoreline is unthinkable.

Wales must use the bright lights of the Sydney skyline to take them out of the 'dark place'.

Chance: Wales' Alex Cuthbert (left) and George North (right) congratulate Jonathan Davies

Chance: Wales' Alex Cuthbert (left) and George North (right) congratulate Jonathan Davies

In his wake: Wales' Mike Phillips avoids a tackle during the defeat to Australia

In his wake: Wales' Mike Phillips avoids a tackle during the defeat to Australia

Wales call up the cavalry for second Test

Wales call up the cavalry for second Test after ambush in Brisbane



19:57 GMT, 15 June 2012

One down, two to go, all to play for. Under the glaring lights of Melbourne's Etihad Stadum and the watchful gaze of Warren Gatland, Wales have one more chance to keep this series alive.

The tourists have brushed off defeat in the first Test as something of a dry run. The players were rusty because they had not played for five or more weeks, the referee was lenient in his interpretation of the breakdown and they were unused to the speed and dynamism of Wallaby rugby on home soil.

James Hook

Focused: James Hook practises his kicking

We will find out if they have learned their lessons from that opening ambush, or if the perceived rust is actually a gulf between these two sides.

Australia v Wales

First Wales must win the contact area and get some front-foot ball. That means preventing Aussie captain David Pocock from destroying the rhythm and pace of the attack with his endless hounding at the contact zone. It is hardly Sam Warburton's job alone, but he more than anyone needs to keep his rival captain and openside otherwise engaged.

Wales must also find a way to shackle Will Genia. The Australian scrum-half set the tempo last week with the speed he shifted the ball away from the ruck and his ability to spot holes in defence. When he is on form he plays with a berserk energy, zig-zagging across the turf to get to every breakdown. It is as if someone has stuck a pin in a gold balloon.

His opposite man, Mike Phillips, is fiercely competitive and will be determined to win the battle this time, but he needs more help from his pack. Wales have talked up the need for physicality, to be more abrasive in contact and not be bullied. Genia is braced for just that.

'If they target me then the worst that happens is you get taken out,' said Genia. 'Mike Phillips' strength is that he is such a big, abrasive player who is strong in contact. You could see that last weekend when he was shrugging off big players like Wycliff Palu, Rob Simmons and Tatafu Polota-Nau.

Safe hands: Leigh Halfpenny

Safe hands: Leigh Halfpenny

'He is such a big guy who likes to carry the ball. He acts as a ninth forward giving them that extra go-forward. I'm sure he will try to impose himself on the game in that way. We will have to be even better because there is no doubt Wales will improve and offer a much bigger threat. They will have a lot more consistency with that one game under their belts.'

Wales interim head coach Rob Howley has called in the cavalry for this one. The four changes to the starting XV bring plenty of experience and savvy. Ryan Jones and Alun-Wyn Jones are powerful ball carriers with a relentless work ethic and they will pack down in the scrum behind an all-Lions front row.

In the back line, Ashley Beck brings a subtlety to the midfield and an uncanny ability to offload at the right time in the tackle. It is a skill which his back three will look to exploit. Even with the lights on and the roof shut, this stadium is noticeably cooler than Brisbane's Suncorp and that should help Wales with the pace of the game.

Nobody was complaining at the final training session yesterday but it was clear the lights really do glare, so expect the early tactic of peppering full backs with high balls to be employed by both sides.

Although Gatland has not interfered with Howley's running of the team, he will watch alongside in the coaching booth and his presence undoubtedly brings a confidence to the players, even if he is nothing more than a conscientious observer.

Catching up: Rhys Priestland

Catching up: Rhys Priestland

Provided everyone is now up to speed with Test rugby, Wales have a genuine chance of levelling the series before flying to Sydney. It was a lack of cohesion and precision that cost them last week, particularly in attack where players were profligate with the try line beckoning. That precision will define this game, according to defence coach Shaun Edwards.

'At 20-19 we had a 5-2 overlap and had we scored then the result could have been different,' said Edwards. 'That is what Test football is all about – taking your chances. We made six line breaks and scored once, while they made six and scored three times.

'There is no problem in getting the players up for this game. They are very, very motivated and some of them feel they can play better than they did last week.

'We are going to get up to the pace of the game a bit more. Sam Warburton will have a little bit more confidence under his belt having played his first game in 11 weeks. 'We are playing against a Tri Nations team and in the professional era we have yet to beat a Tri Nations team away from home.

'So, if you look at the history of it, it is obviously a huge challenge.' If this tour really is an audition for the Lions next year, Wales have had their dress rehearsal. It is time for the show to begin.

Wales warned Australia Test in Melbourne will match Lions ferocity

Wales warned Melbourne showdown will match ferocity of infamous Lions tear-up



06:56 GMT, 14 June 2012

Wales forwards coach Robin McBryde has warned his players that the second Test against Australia will match the ferocity of the infamous Lions Test in Pretoria three years ago.

On the 2009 tour to South Africa, the Lions narrowly lost the first match in Durban despite a second-half fightback that shared many similarities with Wales' performance last weekend.

It set up a must-win match against the Springboks in Pretoria that the Lions lost with the last kick of the game — but the encounter instantly became a part of rugby folklore for its bloody brutality.

Warming up: Gethin Jenkins (left) leads the stretching during a Wales training session at Scotch College

Warming up: Gethin Jenkins (left) leads the stretching during a Wales training session at Scotch College

McBryde believes all the elements are in place to set up a similar battle on Saturday.

'I've had a few conversations with
Rob Howley about how the Lions felt on the 2009 trip to South Africa
when they came back in the first Test but lost, and how that set up the
second Test,' he said. 'That was a really brutal affair and I think this
match will be just as attritional.

'A number of players in our squad
were involved in that match. The South Africans came out with an intent
to kill that three-Test series off in the second match — and I don't
expect it to be any different with the Wallabies on Saturday. Winning a
game is one thing, but winning a series is quite a bit more.

Wales team for the second Test

L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, J Davies, A Beck, G North; R Priestland, M Phillips; G Jenkins, M Rees, A Jones, B Davies, AW Jones, D Lydiate, S Warburton (Captain), R Jones

Replacements: R Hibbard, P James, L Charteris, J Tipuric, R Webb, J Hook, S Williams

'There's three bites at the the cherry for us to make a bit of history but we have to win on Saturday to keep the series alive. All you can do as a coach is make sure they've got all the right tools in the box.'

Former captain Ryan Jones is one of four changes to Wales' line-up for the second Test.

Jones will come in at No 8 in place of Toby Faletau, who returned home after breaking a bone in his hand in the first Test defeat in Brisbane.

Alun Wyn Jones replaces lock Luke Charteris, hooker Matthew Rees comes in for Ken Owens and Ashley Beck will make his first start at centre in place of Scott Williams. Charteris and Williams, who needed stitches to a mouth wound midway through the second half on Saturday, both drop down to the bench.

George North is expected to make a recovery from the dead leg that forced him off after 31 minutes at the Suncorp Stadium.

Warren Gatland arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday after recovering sufficiently from his horrific accident cleaning windows to make the journey from his native New Zealand. He broke both his ankles so badly that in his right foot alone he suffered more than 20 fractures and he will only take a supporting role to Howley for the remainder of the tour.

Preparations: Jonathan Davies in training in Melbourne on Thursday ahead of the second Test

Preparations: Jonathan Davies in training in Melbourne on Thursday ahead of the second Test

McBryde said: 'We've been speaking to Warren on the phone anyway. I think it would have been very hard for him not to take the short trip over from New Zealand at some stage.'

Wales prop Adam Jones played a part in that Lions defeat but believes the World Cup experience will be of more relevance to this squad.

'We showed experience in the World Cup of knockout rugby and I suppose that's what this is,' he said. 'We've got to look after ourselves and play to our own strengths. They've got a few world-class players who can boss the game and we've got to keep them quiet. Which is a lot easier said than done.'

Eye off the ball: Ken Owens

Putting the boot in: Rhys Webb

Mixed success: Ken Owens (left) drops the ball while Rhys Webb (right) put the boot in

Former Munster coach turned Wallaby assistant Tony McGahan believes Wales will come with a strategy of their own in targeting the Australian half backs Will Genia and Berrick Barnes.

'Wales' first reaction will be to shut down our playmakers at nine and 10,' he said. 'You will see a renewed focus in that area. You will see a real blitz defence, they will coming off the line exceptionally hard at the ruck there.

'They will be trying to control our nine and ten, and make sure their time on the ball and their ability to get themselves in the game will be shortened. Contact will be made in that area, there's no doubt about that.'

Sam Warburton Wales exclusive interview

EXCLUSIVE: Warburton ready to reign as Lion King as Wales take on the Barbarians



21:30 GMT, 1 June 2012

Torch carrier: Sam Warburton

Torch carrier: Sam Warburton

When Wales play the Barbarians in Cardiff on Saturday afternoon, Sam Warburton will be 10,400 miles away, squinting at a laptop screen.

It will be 11pm in Brisbane but he and 15 team-mates — who are already in Australia preparing for the first Test in a weeks time— will find a way to watch it.

‘Somebody will find a stream on the internet — we’ll have to,’ said Warburton. ‘In Poland, during a training camp, I remember the boys running around the hotel trying to find a stream for the Haye v Klitschko fight.

‘Loads of them were dodgy and kept cutting out, so hopefully someone can find a decent stream.’

It is unusual for the captain of a side to be in a different hemisphere during a Test match, but it is no surprise that a three-Test series against the Wallabies is the priority for Wales. For all the tub-thumping and Grand Slam glory, Wales have never beaten South Africa or New Zealand on enemy soil and they have only beaten the Aussies once, back in 1969.

The tour also happens to follow the exact route the Lions will take in 12 months — Brisbane, Melbourne and finally Sydney. Although Warren Gatland, the Lions coach-elect, is not officially joining the tour following his freak fall cleaning windows, this is an opportunity for players to show the selectors what they can do on hard ground against the Wallabies one year early.

‘If you say you haven’t thought about it you’re lying,’ said Warburton. ‘Players will play down the whole Lions thing, but it’s 12 months to go and everybody wants to play for the Lions.

‘I’m not going to make any bones about it. What motivates you to play club rugby is international rugby, what motivates you to play international rugby is to play for the Lions.

‘To play an international a year before the Lions tour in Australia and have the chance to put in some big performances, that’s huge.

Main man: Warburton hopes to lead Wales to success this summer

Main man: Warburton hopes to lead Wales to success this summer


WALES: Liam Williams (Scarlets);
Robinson (Cardiff), Bishop (Ospreys),
Hook (Perpignan), Brew (Dragons); Biggar (Ospreys), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff); Gill (Saracens), Rees (Scarlets, capt), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), AW Jones (Ospreys), Evans (Ospreys), Turnbull (Scarlets), Tipuric (Ospreys), Ryan Jones (Ospreys).

Substitutes: Hibbard (Ospreys), James (Ospreys), Shingler (Scarlets), M Williams (Cardiff), Webb (Ospreys), Warren (Scarlets), Harries (Dragons).

BARBARIANS: Muliaina; Nacewa, Laulala, Tindall, Williams; Donald, Rees; Jones, August, Smit (capt); O’Driscoll, Chisholm; Louw, Gorgodze, Beattie.

Substitutes: De Malmanche, Tialata, Van Zyl, Qera, Lawson, Tagicakibau, Heymans.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland).

TV: LIVE on S4C from 1.25pm and BBC2

Wales from 1.30pm (Kick-off 2pm).

‘I’m sure the boys will be looking forward to stepping up to that challenge, seeing where those big performances can take you.

‘The Lions is the distant target in mind but our priority has got to be the Test series win first.’

To many, Warburton is a natural choice for Lions captain. He is honest and unassuming, a Grand Slam-winning skipper and already has a working relationship in place with the likely bulk of the coaching set-up. He is also passionate and hungry.

‘Back in the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa, I was still living with my parents watching on the sofa at home,’ he said. ‘I just remember watching Jamie Roberts and Brian O’Driscoll carve it up.

‘That’s my memory of the tour, O’Driscoll on the gain line throwing a discreet shoulder ball and Jamie just hammering it up.

‘It was a good tour from a Welsh perspective. Adam Jones emerged as a world-class scrummager and I had a keen eye on Leigh Halfpenny at the time because we’d come through the Blues academy. I couldn’t believe he was picked at the end of his first professional season.

‘I remember watching that tour
wishing that I could be on the next one.’ Warburton (right) made his
debut for Wales that summer. It was against the USA on a tour of North

‘Of that squad
there’s only about six or seven players left,’ he said, sounding like he
is surprised himself. ‘Yeah, loads of them have gone. That was only
three years ago, so if you look around now the squad has completely

Blow: Wales coach Warren Gatland suffered an bad injury

Blow: Wales coach Warren Gatland suffered an bad injury

‘Australia is the first summer tour for a lot of us. I think that makes it quite exciting.

‘It will be a first experience and people may try to turn that into a negative but the World Cup in New Zealand was a first experience and we did all right there. We can take confidence from that.

‘I’m not trying to big us up too much but I think we could win this series. It feels like a natural stepping stone for us now after the World Cup and then the Grand Slam. Australia are one of the fittest and most skilful sides, especially on their own turf.

‘What makes it extra difficult is that they’ve just come off the back of a Super 15 tournament and they’re halfway through their season. If we think we’re going to run the legs off them like we did against some of the Six Nations teams then it will be a different story.

‘They’ll be able to keep coming so these should be great Test matches. People at home might be happy if we just win a Test but we want to win the series.’

Warburton is determined not to let Gatland’s injury upset Wales’ long-term goal of global domination. But the plan that ends in World Cup glory must begin with a Test series win on foreign soil against one of the southern hemisphere superpowers.

‘We will miss Warren, of course, because he’s such a big influence on the squad, but without him the set-up and structure is all pretty similar.

London calling: Warburton carried the Olympic torch through Cardiff

London calling: Warburton carried the Olympic torch through Cardiff

‘We go through the same routines in training, we approach Test week the same way, the foundations are all still there.

‘I was watching Sky Sports News when Warren’s injury flashed up and the first thing I did was check the date to make sure it wasn’t an April Fool. You didn’t know if it was a joke or not.

‘Then the texts started to go around all the boys and I realised how serious it was.

‘It must have been agony. Fracturing both heels It sounds like a shocking injury, worse than 90 per cent of rugby injuries. Rob Howley has been very influential in my time with Wales anyway. Having Rob as head coach doesn’t feel unusual at all.’

For Warburton personally, the Grand Slam hysteria was marred by shoulder trouble. But after three trips to London, the specialist has given him the green light to play and he says the nerves have been fine during upper-body wrestling and ‘bone-on-bone’ tackling drills.

Anyway, you sense he would be in Australia even with one working shoulder. The Lions tour is 12 months away and Warburton is ready for his audition.

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