Rugby World Cup: Alun Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Jon Davies vital, says Warburton

Jonathan Davies, Ken Owens and Alun Wyn Jones look up at a big screen during a Scarlets v Ospreys match
Jonathan Davies, Ken Owens and Alun Wyn Jones boast 288 Test appearances between them
Rugby World Cup: Wales v Georgia
Venue: City of Toyota Stadium, Toyota City Date: Mon, 23 September Kick-off: 11:15 BST
Coverage: Full commentary on every Wales game across BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru, BBC Radio 5 Live and Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, plus text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.

Former captain Sam Warburton says Wales cannot afford to lose more experienced players from their World Cup squad.

Coach Warren Gatland is already without Lions forward Taulupe Faletau and key back Gareth Anscombe because of injury.

Warburton identified skipper Alun Wyn Jones, hooker Ken Owens and centre Jonathan Davies as the high-calibre players Wales cannot afford to lose.

"They are the key leaders in the spine of our team," he told the Scrum V Rugby podcast.

"Even 'though we've got good depth, there's key players we really need to pray stay fit and wrap them in cotton wool.

"I'm hoping that leadership spine doesn't get damaged anymore. Anything outside of that I think we can deal with but I'm not sure about those boys."

Back row Faletau was ruled out with a broken arm at the start of August while fly-half Anscombe tore knee ligaments in the warm-up game against England a week later.

Wales have injury concerns over second rows Adam Beard (appendix) and Cory Hill (stress fracture), with both set to miss their opening game against Georgia on 23 September.

Warburton, who led Wales at the 2011 and 2015 tournaments, believes Wales' squad is the strongest the country has fielded at the tournament, but the experienced core of the side is crucial to their hopes.

"Even though we've got good players from 1 to 31, if we lost Ken Owens - yeah we've still got Elliott Dee - but we've lost a massive amount of experience in the spine of that leadership," added Warburton.

"If we lost Alun Wyn, ok we've got Adam Beard and Jake Ball, but we've lost a huge amount of experience in that spine.

"If we lost Jon Davies, ok you could play Owen Watkin, that's fine, and Hadleigh Parkes, but we've lost a massive spine of that leadership."

Davies says the experience of the three British and Irish Lions would be vital in decision making.

"In a World Cup when games will be tight you need guys that can just step in and see the bigger picture and say 'don't get emotionally wrapped up now let's cool it'," he added.

"Jon Davies would go to Alun Wyn and speak.

"When you're captain I think they feel rushed to make a decision. You've got 10 seconds to make the decision, it doesn't sound long but it's enough to look at a couple of your co-leaders and be like 'scrum, lineout, kick' whatever, even discuss it through.

"You've got time to do that so that's where you need your experienced guys when you do get those decisions that are right on the cusp 'do you go for it or not?'."

Warburton explained the influence of the senior players is also important between matches, and can reassure inexperienced players when things go wrong in training.

"It's your experienced players who can calm the squad down or pick them, up so that's what you need those guys for," he said.

Listen again: Sam Warburton's guide to RWC captaincy

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