11:00am Monday 20th February 2012
By Chris Kirwan
WALES are confident that Sam Warburton will spearhead their Triple Crown challenge at Twickenham, but a former skipper is impressed by the way they have proved they can live without their captain.
The openside flanker is set to return to training today ahead of Saturday’s Six Nations clash with England.
The 23-year-old was forced off at half-time in the opening success in Ireland and was a late withdrawal from the side that beat Scotland in Cardiff.
But the absence of their talisman didn’t derail the Welsh challenge, with Justin Tipuric and Aaron Shingler stepping up to the plate in Dublin and at the Millennium Stadium respectively.
Warburton is poised to resume his back-row partnership with Newport Gwent Dragons pair Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau this weekend.
However, Colin Charvis, who experienced the challenge of captaining Wales from the back row, believes Warren Gatland’s side have developed impressively to cope without their skipper.
“As a back row they really work well together and there is no doubt that Wales are better with Sam in the team,” said the former Dragons player and coach.
“There is a great balance to the back row. They are all the same generation and seem pretty close, they are clearly enjoying themselves and that shows out on the pitch.
“But I think the second half in Ireland and the game against Scotland shows that they have a Plan B and can cope – it’s not a case of one wheel falling off the trolley and it’s gone.”
Wales possess three big hitters in the back row, but it is their quartet of giants in the backs that Charvis believes will be key against England.
The large frames of centres Jamie Roberts and Jon Davies and wings George North and Alex Cuthbert will be charged with maintaining the destructive form showed in rounds one and two.
“The power of the boys is incredible and it’s a relentless barrage from all four of them,” said Charvis.
“When I was playing it was ideal in some sense (knowing that the opposition will be coming down the middle) but it’s deflating when it is wave after wave, the big runners setting a target for the back row and it starting all over again.”
As a man with 94 Welsh caps to his name it’s fair to say Charvis knows a fair bit about the international game.
And the former captain, who enjoyed 11 years of Test rugby, is taken aback by the ease with which Warren Gatland’s young team have taken to representing their county.
Charvis believes the key is the way that the squad have been put through their paces, first at an intensive training camp in Poland, and then at their Vale of Glamorgan headquarters.
“It’s amazing that so many of the young players already look at home on the international stage, that usually takes years,” he said.
“It’s striking that the boys talk of the intensity of the training environment, that it’s as close to an international match without smashing each other all over the place.
“That means they step onto the park knowing that they can hit the ground running and all of the team have a phenomenal work rate.
“They all know what is required and that also helps the new arrivals slot in easily, the likes of Justin Tipuric and Alex Cuthbert.
“That showed in Dublin when Gethin Jenkins, one of the best looseheads in the world, a great player with a great engine, was ruled out. Rhys Gill stepped into the breach and did everything that could have been asked of him.”
Colin Charvis was speaking at the launch of the BG Energy Challenge 2012 – UK, the leading annual charity fundraising event for the energy industry raising money for Sparks and CARE International. To take part visit: bg-energychallenge.com/UK or follow @BG_Challenge_UK
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