Wales Rugby: Alun Wyn Jones set to take over from Sam Warburton

Sam Warburton's six-year spell as Wales captain is to come to an end.

Ospreys lock Alun Wyn Jones, 31, is set to be named as his successor on 17 January when interim coach Rob Howley announces his Six Nations squad.

The Cardiff Blues flanker, 28, first captained Wales in 2011 and led the British and Irish Lions to a 2-1 series win in Australia in 2013.

Jones took over from him for the final Lions Test and has also captained Wales five times.

Warburton became the youngest player to skipper Wales at a World Cup when he led them to the semi-finals in 2011.

He then captained them to a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2012 before winning the Championship the following year. Warburton was also skipper for the 2015 World Cup as Wales beat hosts England at Twickenham on their way to the quarter-finals.

He missed two of Wales' four autumn internationals in November through injury, and played under Gethin Jenkins for the Argentina game.

But veteran prop Jenkins and previous captain Dan Lydiate are currently on the long-term injury list.

Alun Wyn Jones
Alun Wyn Jones has scored nine tries in 105 appearances for Wales

Cardiff Blues head coach Danny Wilson is backing Warburton's form in the fight for Six Nations places, after a run of injury-free games while also standing in for Jenkins as regional captain.

"From a Blues' viewpoint he's captained the team and played well," said Wilson.

"It's been great for Sam to have a run of games leading into the Six Nations which recently he hasn't had because of injuries.

"His work off-the-ball and his work-rate generally has been through the roof and his defensive moments have still been great.

"I know he wanted to go into the Six Nations off the back of some good form and he's starting to build that."

Former Wales captain Gareth Llewellyn believes Warburton will still play an important role in the squad whether or not he is captain.

"If Sam Warburton is fit and firing on all cylinders that's a good thing, he's still going to be there as a senior player, supporting whoever takes over," he told BBC Radio Wales.

"In fairness to Sam, I don't think he's ever thought he is an automatic choice, like any captain, you've got to earn your spot first."

Llewellyn also believes any change would hit Warburton's chances of leading the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand, after being tour captain in the 2013 series win in Australia.

Jones, 31, took over the captaincy for the deciding Test when Warburton was injured.

"I guess it potentially writes off any Lions captaincy chances though not totally. He needs to get picked to play for Wales, then he needs to play well enough for Wales to get picked for the Lions," said Llewellyn.

Analysis

Ross Harries, Scrum V rugby presenter

Sam Warburton was himself unsure he was the right man for the job when he was first appointed captain for the 2011 World Cup at the age of 22, but he has led Wales with distinction for six years since.

His international career is far from over, but with competition for back-row places becoming increasingly fierce he might feel the distraction of the captaincy is one he could do without.

He's the consummate team man, and if the skipper's armband is given to Alun Wyn Jones, you can expect Warburton to give his successor his full support.

Sam Warburton
Sam Warburton, seen here scoring a try against Fiji in the 2011 World Cup group stage, led Wales to the semi-finals of the tournament
Sam Warburton
He was left in tears after being shown a red card during the first half of the semi-final against France, which Wales eventually lost 9-8
Sam Warburton
Warburton lifted his first trophy as captain in 2012 when Wales won the Six Nations Grand Slam
Sam Warburton and Ryan Jones celebrate winning the 2013 Six Nations
A 30-3 demolition of England in Cardiff secured the 2013 Six Nations title
Sam Warburton celebrates winning the first Test for the British and Irish Lions in 2013
Warburton captained the British and Irish Lions to a 2-1 series win in Australia in 2013
Sam Warburton and Alun Wyn Jones
He led the Lions to victory in the first Test but a hamstring injury suffered in the second Test meant Alun Wyn Jones was skipper for the final match of the series
Wales celebrate beating England at the 2015 World Cup
Wales beat hosts England 28-25 in the 2015 World Cup at Twickenham but were eventually knocked out by South Africa in the quarter-finals

Top Stories