Sam Warburton may be on Wales bench for Six Nations, says Martyn Williams

Sam Warburton
Sam Warburton, who made his debut in 2009, has won 69 caps for Wales
Six Nations: Italy v Wales
Date: Sunday, 5 February Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on S4C, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary

Wales flanker Sam Warburton is likely to start the Six Nations on the bench, according to former captain Martyn Williams.

Lock Alun Wyn Jones has taken over from Warburton as Wales skipper for the 2017 Six Nations.

Williams believes his former Wales and Cardiff Blues team-mate Warburton may struggle to retain his starting place.

"If you're going on the autumn and the past 12 months then probably Sam would be on the bench," he said.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales Sport, Williams added: "The two flankers in [open-side Justin] Tipuric and [blind-side Ross] Moriarty have been superb for the last 12 months.

"Because of injuries Sam hasn't really had a run of games in the Welsh jersey or the Blues jersey."

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Howley explains Wales captaincy change

Warburton, 28, first captained Wales in 2011, and became the youngest player to lead them at a World Cup later that year.

He has won 69 caps for Wales, a record 49 as captain, but his six-year tenure ended as coach Rob Howley named his Six Nations squad on Tuesday.

Howley said he has spoken to Warburton about him switching from open to blind-side of the back-row and highlighted the strength of back-row competition he faced.

Warburton missed Wales' last match, November's win over South Africa, because of injury, with Dan Lydiate, Justin Tipuric and Ross Moriarty starting in the back row in his absence.

Martyn Williams (left) and Sam Warburton in action for Cardiff Blues in 2009
Martyn Williams (left) and Sam Warburton in action for Cardiff Blues in 2009

Ospreys blind-side Lydiate will miss the Six Nations because of injury but, with number eight Taulupe Faletau fit again, Williams thinks Warburton may have to settle for a place on the bench.

"I think if you're brutally honest it depends on Faletau's fitness," the former British and Irish Lions open-side added.

"You would go with a back-row of Tipuric, Moriarty and Faletau. We're always saying Alun Wyn is the first name of the team-sheet but for me Taulupe must be very very close to that, so if he's fit he plays.

"You're looking at it, we're all trying to read it to see what Rob Howley's saying. It looks like he [Warburton] probably will not start that first game against Italy if Toby Faletau is fit."

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