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Six Nations 2013: Wales switch Sam Warburton to No6 for France trip

Published in Sport on Thursday February 7th, 2013. Last updated at 09:00

This article was written by Paul Rees, for guardian.co.uk on Wednesday 6th February 2013 20.26 UTC

Wales, in desperate need of a victory after eight successive defeats, will move their captain Sam Warburton to blindside flanker against France in Paris on Saturday to accommodate Justin Tipuric on the openside.

Tipuric, whose only other start in the Six Nations was against Italy last year, is regarded as the form breakaway in Wales and made an impact when he came on against Ireland in the 43rd minute last weekend.

Wales have a vacancy on the blindside with Dan Lydiate injured. Aaron Shingler filled the position against Ireland but he suffered rib damage early in the second half and was replaced by Tipuric.

Warburton, the leading candidate 10 months ago to lead the Lions in Australia this summer, has come under fire during Wales’s losing streak with critics arguing that he is struggling for form with his region, Cardiff Blues, and the national side.

There have been calls for him to be replaced as captain by Ryan Jones, who is fit again after missing the opening match because of a thumb injury. He is, though, being considered as a second-row option to Andrew Coombs, who made his debut against Ireland, and will be on the bench.

The Wales interim head coach Rob Howley will announce the team to face France at noon on Thursday. Although he is in outright charge for the Six Nations while Warren Gatland takes a sabbatical to focus on the Lions, it is inconceivable that he would take a decision on the captaincy on his own.

Ryan Jones was stripped of the Wales captaincy by Gatland in November 2010 after a home draw with Fiji. The hooker Matthew Rees took over, but when he was injured, Warburton was appointed and led the side to the semi-finals of the World Cup and the grand slam last year. Rees started against England but the fit-again Richard Hibbard will take over at hooker in Paris.

Moving Warburton to six does have implications, with Lydiate, who broke an ankle last September, expected to be available before the end of the Six Nations, although it may only be for the final match against England. If Tipuric proves himself, the captaincy would become an issue.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

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