Warburton fired up for his biggest ever game

Sam Warburton is ready to lead Wales’ final push for the RBS 6 Nations title and Grand Slam glory tomorrow, declaring: “It will be the biggest game of my career.”

The Wales captain has recovered from a knee injury that meant he missed last weekend’s Millennium Stadium victory over Italy.

He replaces Ospreys flanker Justin Tipuric as the only change from that game, and Warburton is looking to make it third time lucky against France this weekend.

Cardiff Blues star Warburton was sent off when the countries last met in a gripping World Cup semi-final at Auckland’s Eden Park five months ago. France triumphed 9-8, but they were outplayed by Wales for long periods of a game that saw the Welsh reduced to 14 men after just 18 minutes, when Warburton was dismissed following a dangerous tackle on France wing Vincent Clerc.

“I have started against France twice, and I haven’t made it past the 20-minute mark on either occasion,” he said.

“The first time I got injured, and then there was the semi-final, so it would be nice to stay on for a bit longer this time and have a good outing against Thierry Dusautoir.”

Warburton has played just 120 minutes’ rugby in the Six Nations this season.

He was forced off at half-time during the opening weekend victory over Ireland due to a thigh injury, then sat out Scotland’s Millennium Stadium visit before a knee problem suffered against England at Twickenham sidelined him for Italy.

But he added: “I am feeling great. I am really happy with the way (the knee) has responded.

“It’s back to normal. I am 100% going to play.”

France make five changes and one positional switch. Prop Nicolas Mas, hooker Dimitri Szarzewski and scrum-half Julien Dupuy are among those left out after Les Bleus’ 24-22 home defeat to England four days ago. Perpignan forward Mas is replaced by Stade Francais tighthead David Attoub, who is playing again after serving a 70-week ban for eye-gouging Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris during a Heineken Cup clash between Stade and Ulster.

Meanwhile Scotland’s teenage full-back Stuart Hogg is determined to show his performance in Ireland was a blip and help secure a victory in Italy to avoid a Six Nations wooden spoon.

The 19-year-old Glasgow Warriors back was starved of ball in attack in the 32-14 loss in Dublin, while also struggling under the high ball. The result in Ireland leaves Scotland facing a wooden spoon decider in Rome this weekend and Hogg is eager to improve on his display after learning from coming up against Ireland’s Lions full-back Rob Kearney, a player peerless under the high ball.

Hogg said: “I think my confidence dropped a little after dropping a couple of high balls. As a full-back you’ve got to take them, no matter how much pressure you’re under. Watch Rob Kearney, for instance.

“I base my game on him because he’s unbelievable in the air.”

Scotland are seeking to avoid a seventh straight loss for the first time since 1998 by claiming just a third win in Rome, with their most most recent win in the Eternal City back in 2006.

Wales: L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), G North (Scarlets); R Priestland (Scarlets), M Phillips (Bayonne); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), M Rees (Scarlets), A Jones (Ospreys), A-W Jones (Ospreys), I Evans (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

France: C Poitrenaud (Toulouse); W Fofana (Clermont Auvergne), A Rougerie (Clermont Auvergne), F Fritz (Toulouse), A Palisson (Toulon); L Beauxis (Stade Francais), D Yachvili (Biarritz); J-B Poux (Toulouse), W Servat (Toulouse), D Attoub (Stade Francais), P Pape (Stade Francais), Y Maestri (Toulouse), T Dusautoir (Toulouse, capt), J Bonnaire (Clermont Auvergne), I Harinordoquy (Biarritz).

More in this section

CourtsRugbyPlace: Millennium StadiumPlace: AucklandPlace: Eden ParkPlace: ScotlandPlace: TwickenhamPlace: IrelandPlace: DublinPlace: RomePlace: WalesPerson: WarburtonPerson: Sam WarburtonPerson: Justin TipuricPerson: Vincent ClercPerson: Thierry DusautoirPerson: Nicolas MasPerson: Dimitri SzarzewskiPerson: Julien DupuyPerson: MasPerson: David AttoubPerson: Stephen FerrisPerson: Stuart HoggPerson: HoggPerson: Rob KearneyPerson: L HalfpennyPerson: A CuthbertPerson: J DaviesPerson: J RobertsPerson: GPerson: R PriestlandPerson: M PhillipsPerson: G JenkinsPerson: M ReesPerson: A JonesPerson: A-W JonesPerson: I EvansPerson: D LydiatePerson: S WarburtonPerson: T FaletauPerson: WPerson: APerson: D YachviliPerson: -B PouxPerson: W ServatPerson: D AttoubPerson: P PapePerson: Y MaestriPerson: T DusautoirPerson: J BonnairePerson: I HarinordoquyEvent: RBSEvent: World CupEvent: Six NationsEvent: Heineken CupOrganisation: Wales’Organisation: WalesOrganisation: ItalyOrganisation: OspreysOrganisation: FranceOrganisation: Cardiff BluesOrganisation: WelshOrganisation: IrelandOrganisation: EnglandOrganisation: Les Bleus’Organisation: PerpignanOrganisation: Stade FrancaisOrganisation: StadeOrganisation: UlsterOrganisation: ScotlandOrganisation: Six NationsOrganisation: Glasgow WarriorsOrganisation: Ireland’s LionsOrganisation: ScarletsOrganisation: BayonneOrganisation: Newport Gwent DragonsOrganisation: ToulouseOrganisation: Clermont AuvergneOrganisation: F FritzOrganisation: ToulonOrganisation: L BeauxisOrganisation: BiarritzOrganisation: J
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