Cardiff Blues boss Mark Hammett defends resting Sam Warburton

Sam Warburton played in three Cardiff Blues games in a row before being rested
Sam Warburton played in three Cardiff Blues games in a row before being rested

Cardiff Blues director of rugby Mark Hammett has stood by the decision not to play Sam Warburton in Friday's Pro12 defeat at home to Ulster.

The Wales captain, 25, is the only player currently contracted to the Welsh Rugby Union.

Hammett said good management of the flanker was "absolutely critical".

"To get the best out of 'Warbs' I need to manage him, not just through our campaign but leading into internationals," Hammett said.

"That won't matter whether it's Warbs or any of the internationals. I look at what's best for the team and what's best for Warby."

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Warburton, who captained the British and Irish Lions to a series victory in Australia in 2013, missed a large chunk of last season after dislocating his shoulder in Wales' 51-3 win against Scotland in the Six Nations in March.

The open-side had signed a central contract in January 2014 after failing to agree a new deal with the Blues.

But his status meant the Blues did not select Warburton for some pre-season friendlies while the row over funding between the WRU and the four Welsh regions was being resolved.

The new Rugby Services Agreement, signed by the regions and the Union on 28 August, cleared Warburton to play and he made three appearances for the Blues on consecutive weekends.

The new deal contains a clause allowing players to be employed on dual-contracts, jointly funded by the WRU and the regions.

In Warburton's absence, Blues fell to their second Pro12 home defeat in succession after last weekend's 12-33 reverse against Glasgow.

Despite the loss and now going two games without having scored a try, Hammett believed it was a much improved performance by Blues.

"I'm really proud of the boys actually. Let's not be mistaken, we're never going to be satisfied with losses, but the way we performed in lots of parts of the game I'm really stoked," said the New Zealander.

"Defensively at times we were not systematically perfect but certainly our attitude was very, very good.

"The difference was they took their chances and we didn't take ours.

"The big difference from last week is that we actually created good chances, we didn't at any time look lost from a shape perspective."

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