Warburton unfazed by appointment of Rolland as referee

Wales captain Sam Warburton has played down the appointment of Irishman Alain Rolland to referee Saturday’s Millennium Stadium showdown against South Africa.

Rolland controversially sent off Warburton during the 2011 World Cup semi-final against France in Auckland. It meant Wales played for more than hour with 14 men after Warburton was dismissed following a dangerous tackle on Les Bleus wing Vincent Clerc. They lost 9-8.

Rolland, who was subsequently vilified by sections of the Welsh public, has not refereed a Wales Test match involving Warburton in Cardiff since.

“I have barely spoken to Alain since the incident and have certainly never spoken to him about it,” Warburton said.

“I joke about it now saying it was a PR stunt because nobody knew about me then. I only realised he was refereeing yesterday. I don’t think it will have any bearing on how I work with the referee.

“I met him in the Italy match in the last Six Nations and we said hello. It feels like such a long time ago, I’ve forgotten about it until somebody brings it up.

“I look back at the tackle and think my head was on the wrong side. I used to go in a bit higher, but my tackle technique has changed now and I go in much lower, so that will never happen again.

“It [red card] still comes up in conversation with me. I might be shopping around Sainsbury’s, but two years later people will shout from another aisle, ‘it was never a red card’.

“Whether I am doing a question and answer session when I’m 60, somebody will ask me about it.”

Meanwhile, Wales defence specialist Shaun Edwards is bracing his players for a ‘gladiatorial’ struggle against South Africa.

Wales meet the Springboks for the first time since a gripping 2011 World Cup pool game in Wellington that South Africa edged 17-16.

“If you like your rugby as gladiatorial, then get a ticket for Saturday because this will be no place for the faint-hearted,” Edwards added.

“We have to muscle up against these boys. We practise our tackling a lot, but we certainly have been concentrating on that this week.

“South Africa are also a skilful team as well and they are not just based on power, which they proved by scoring four tries against the All Blacks last time they played. They play with a lot of width as well, so they have options.

“Probably the best team I have ever coached against was the South African team of 2009, although there have been some great New Zealand sides. That South African team beat New Zealand three times in the same season.

“This is the best Springboks team since then, and (coach) Heyneke Meyer has done a great job. We know what we are going up against.”

Meanwhile, injury to Tim Visser has given Glasgow wing Tommy Seymour a chance to start for Scotland in Saturday’s clash with Japan.

Kelly Brown skippers the side once more while British and Irish Lion Sean Maitland fills in for Stuart Hogg, who misses out with a wrist injury.


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