Rugby World Cup 2011: Ryan Jones praises Sam Warburton's captaincy

Ryan Jones and Sam Warburton
Ryan Jones congratulates Sam Warburton after scoring against Fiji

Sam Warburton's captaincy during the World Cup has been hailed as "inspirational" by former Wales skipper Ryan Jones.

Number eight Jones skippered his country 27 times but lost the role almost 12 months ago.

Hooker Matthew Rees took over but his hopes of leading Wales at the World Cup were ruined by a neck injury.

"Sam is a great kid who has done nothing but lead by example on and off the field," Jones said.

In his nine games at the helm, Warburton, 23, has led Wales to seven victories, helping them generate momentum towards Saturday's World Cup semi-final against France at Eden Park.

"He is inspirational in the way he conducts himself on the field, the manner in which he has been playing," added Jones.

"Likewise, off the field, age is just a number when you have got someone who commands that much respect. He is very receptive to ideas and having a chat.

"There is a role for players like myself, helping him and making sure he's comfortable so it doesn't distract from the way he is playing and he is able to excel the way he has done."

Warburton is just one of a raft of young players who have enhanced their reputation during the trip to New Zealand.

As well as Warburton, Rhys Priestland, Toby Faletau and George North have also hit the headlines with a series of impressive performances.

And defence coach Shaun Edwards has paid tribute to his boss Warren Gatland for following his "gut instinct" to blood younger players.

Eight of Wales's match-day squad against World Cup semi-final opponents France is aged 23 or under.

Wales coach Gatland's faith in them has not wavered, either before the World Cup or during a tournament when players like Warburton, Faletau and Jonathan Davies have become pivotal performers.

"It is down to Warren," said Edwards.

"He followed his gut instinct. He probably took a lot of stick from certain people but, once again, he has been proven right.

"We came to New Zealand last year with umpteen number of players missing and we played against the All Blacks in Hamilton and pushed them very close.

"In that team, we had about four 20-year-olds in the back-line.

"You have to coach them [younger players] a bit differently. Experienced players I would coach a little differently.

"They [youngsters] just want to be taught. If you tell them to jump over that wall they will jump over it.

"If it's an experienced player, you will tell him why you want him to jump over that wall."

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