Wales captain Sam Warburton expects to face Italy in Six Nations
Last Updated: 22/01/14 3:38pm
Wales captain Sam Warburton has revealed that he expects to be available for the start of the Six Nations champions' defence against Italy at the Millennium Stadium on February 1.
Warburton has been out since the end of November with shoulder nerve damage but the British and Irish Lions skipper announced at the 2014 championship's launch in London that he is winning his fitness battle.
However, his lack of game time while recovering from the injury means he may play a match for Cardiff Blues before taking part in Wales' Six Nations campaign.
"I think I'll be available for selection," Warburton said. "I need to have a chat with (head coach) Warren Gatland and the medics early next week to decide what's the best thing to do, whether that be go back to my club first to play a game."
Wales are seeking a historic third straight Six Nations title after derailing England's Grand Slam hopes in Cardiff 12 months ago. Even the great Welsh teams of the 1970s managed only two outright Five Nations wins back to back.
"We always look forward to the Six Nations, it's what you're measured on. It's the one we always look forward to," Warburton said.
"This is my fifth championship now and I love playing in them. We have a chance for three in a row and to create history."
Warburton added that though he was hell-bent on being 100% healthy to lead his country he would respect the call if Gatland decided he was not fit enough.
Were that to happen he admitted he could return to Cardiff Blues to turn out in their LV=Cup home clash against Harlequins on Friday, January 31.
Confident he would be ready to jump straight into Wales action if given the green light, Warburton said: "I'm doing a lot of rehab work, it's feeling good but we just have to wait.
"When I first saw the specialist he said the end of January would be most realistic. It's similar to what I went through 18 months ago after the 2012 Six Nations.
"Contact is the first hurdle I've got to get over. I've done it a few times now, returned quickly after injury.
"The fitness work we do with the Wales squad is great stuff, and they would make sure I wouldn't play if I wasn't fit."