Ryan Jones backs Warburton as Wales captain
Updated: October 12, 2011, 00:20
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) Ryan Jones says he has no hard feelings toward Sam Warburton, though the young man has come between himself and the Welsh captaincy and may be poised to lead Wales into a Rugby World Cup final for the first time.
The veteran backrower was stripped of the captaincy late last season and it was first handed to the hooker Matthew Rees, until a shoulder injury ruled him out of the World Cup, and then to Warburton.
Only 23 at the time, Warburton was seen as a risky choice as captain but has thrived in the role at the World Cup, becoming one of the stars of the tournament and forcing Jones not only out of the leadership but onto the reserves bench.
Jones said he had no issues with Warburton over the captaincy, saying "we have moved on and it was a long time ago now.''
He has pledged his full support to Warburton and to Wales as it faces France in a semifinal on Saturday and, personally, is just glad to be here.
Three weeks ago he was booked to fly home to Wales because of a calf injury but he has managed to outlast that concern and is happy to be around to take any role in the semifinals.
"It's been a hell of a six weeks for me,'' he said. "Three weeks ago I had my plane ticket booked and I was going home. I'm still here and I'm still figuring I suppose.
"I am thoroughly enjoying it and, crikey, we're in the semifinal of a World Cup. I'm trying to contribute and be a part of it as much as I can be.''
Jones said he hoped to contribute with his support of Warburton.
"Sam is a great kid who has done nothing but lead by example on and off the field,'' he said. "He is inspirational in the way he conducts himself on the field, the manner in which he has been playing and likewise off the field.
"It has been a pleasure with him, and age is just a number when you have someone like him, someone who commands such respect on the field.
"He is very receptive and he is full of ideas when you have a chat. There is a role for players like myself who just try to facilitate others, helping him with his role and making sure he is comfortable, so he does not get trapped by the way he plays and it becomes a natural progression and he is able to excel the way he has been.''
Jones said Wales had to ensure it maintained the level of performance it achieved when it shocked Ireland 22-10 in the quarterfinals last weekend.
"I think it is not a question of stepping it up. It is doing more of the same,'' he said. "There was a lot of good in the game last week through one to 15 and this, along with individual performances, is what it takes to win the World Cup.
"The set-piece was excellent. The breakdown, I thought the boys were superb. All the stats were superb, which reflected on the end result.
"The boys are confident and there are a lot of guys in fine form which will benefit the team. It is highly competitive here, everyone gets along well and there is good balance across the squad, with positions, players, ages and experience. Everything seems to be working at the moment.''