Six Nations: Wales skipper Sam Warburton close to full fitness but not certain to face Italy

Last Updated: 27/01/14 5:44pm

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Sam Warburton: nearing recovery from shoulder problem

Sam Warburton: nearing recovery from shoulder problem

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The Wales camp are not yet ready to confirm whether captain Sam Warburton will return to action in their Six Nations opener against Italy on Saturday.

The Cardiff Blues flanker has not played since the narrow loss to Australia last November due to a shoulder injury.

However, he is believed to be close to full fitness and could start or come off the bench at the Millennium Stadium this weekend, although the possibility of him playing for Cardiff in the LV= Cup on Friday night instead has also been mooted.

"Sam is one of those players who is so fit that he can come straight back into a game and potentially play without a warm-up game, but having a warm-up game is another option as well."
Shaun Edwards

Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards said: "His return date is pretty imminent, whether it is this week or next week.

"Sam is one of those players who is so fit that he can come straight back into a game and potentially play without a warm-up game, but having a warm-up game is another option as well."

However, experienced prop forward Gethin Jenkins is still struggling with a knee injury and is not likely to recover in time to face Italy.

"He is progressing, but I wouldn't say he is imminent to play yet," said Edwards.

"He is a very experienced player for us, but it is one of the positions where we do have a lot of cover. Paul James' form for Bath, Ryan Bevington's form (for Ospreys) has been outstanding, really."

Wary

Wales will not be taking Italy lightly and Edwards added: "Italy won their first game last year. They beat France and Ireland last season, two huge powers of rugby, and they nearly beat England. We have to be on our guard.

"All our drive, thoughts and actions are driven towards one thing, which is trying to retain this title and create history (by winning three successive Six Nations titles).

"But we know full well that every single team is waiting for us. I know I would be if I was in one of those opposition teams. I would be doing everything possible to stop somebody else winning three titles on the trot.

"We have the ultimate motivation, really, but the opposition have the ultimate motivation to stop us doing it.

"Our preparation, I would say, is at a more advanced stage this year than last year. We had a lot of players who weren't playing regular rugby at that time."

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