WALES v ENGLAND: Rob Howley explains captaincy decision ahead of Six Nations showdown
WALES coach Rob Howley has once more put the team dynamic before individuals with his choice of captain for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations title decider against England in Cardiff.
Howley today appointed Toulon prop Gethin Jenkins as the third different skipper of this season's Six Nations campaign, following Sam Warburton and Ryan Jones.
Like Warburton and Jones, Jenkins offers previous experience of the role, latterly against Italy a year ago.
Jones broke a bone in his shoulder during last weekend's victory over Scotland, and he is replaced in the back-row by Justin Tipuiric, with Warburton wearing Wales' number six shirt.
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Howley has decided for a second successive game not to reinstall Warburton - last season's Grand Slam skipper - as captain, preferring instead to let him concentrate on his own game.
That approach worked a treat at Murrayfield five days ago when Warburton delivered a towering man-of-the-match display.
"Sam really enjoyed the preparation last week, and then the way he played against Scotland - he was man of the match," said Howley, who has maintained an open dialogue with Warburton throughout the tournament.
"I think it speaks volumes for Sam. One thing about our squad is how selfless they are, and I said I would rather stick to my preparation (of last week).
"In terms of Gethin, he is vastly experienced and has captained Wales previously, including many times when Sam or Ryan has gone off in a game.
"Leadership is not just about the captain, it is about the unity within the squad. We are lucky enough to have a number of leaders who can step up, and Gethin has that responsibility that weekend.
"Sam has been outstanding over the last few weeks, and as I've said, it is about what is best for the Welsh team playing against England on Saturday, and that situation is Gethin Jenkins to be captain."
Triple Grand Slam winner Jenkins, 32, has recovered from a calf muscle injury to win his 98th cap. He replaces Paul James in the front-row, with the Bath loose-head dropping down to bench duty.
Jenkins first led Wales in a 2007 post-World Cup Test against South Africa - the Springboks won 34-12 - and he said: "It won't just be me making decisions out there on Saturday.
"There has been a big emphasis on leadership and more boys speaking up in this campaign. I think, from the autumn games this season, we felt we were a bit quiet.
"For me, it is just a case of slotting in, saying a few words today and tomorrow and just getting the boys' heads on for the game on Saturday.
"Ryan has done a great job. He slotted into it easily, and hopefully it will be the same for me.
"A lot of people have an input these days, and it is just a case of leading the side out on Saturday and playing as well as you can to lead the boys from the front."
Two changes on the bench from Edinburgh see James replacing Ryan Bevington and Scarlets flanker Aaron Shingler featuring instead of a promoted Tipuric.
The victory over Scotland set a Wales record of five successive Six Nations away wins, although the reigning champions have not won a Test match at the Millennium Stadium this season.
Howley has named an unchanged back division for the fifth game running, with Mike Phillips making his 77th Test match appearance to become Wales' most capped scrum-half.
And the centre partnership of Jonathan Davies and Jamie Roberts make their 14th championship appearance together, passing the previous Wales best held by Ray Gravell and Steve Fenwick.
Wales will retain the title if they beat by England by seven points - and stay ahead of them on overall try-count - or eight points and above, when try-count becomes irrelevant.
England, meanwhile, are chasing a first Grand Slam since 2003, with none of their previous 12 tournament clean sweeps being achieved in Cardiff.
The Wales team features 12 players who started last season's Grand Slam clincher against France and boasts a combined a tally of more than 600 caps.
And Howley is excited about the prospect of seeing openside specialists Warburton and Tipuric start a Test match for the first time together.
"Throughout the Six Nations, we've been consistent in saying we would like to see Justin and Sam play at some stage together," Howley said.
"I was really pleased with the way Sam and Justin worked together last weekend (Tipuric replaced Jones in the second-half). They put pressure on the ball, and they are very smart, intelligent rugby players.
"We've got two world-class number sevens, two fetchers, two players who can be smart in the contact area, and those qualities will once again be needed in abundance.
"It's great to come towards the end of a championship when one team is going for the Grand Slam and the other has got the opportunity for the championship.
"Six Nations tournaments are normally special, but to come to the end of a long campaign with everything up for grabs, it is going to be a special atmosphere on the weekend.
"I have said to the players to embrace it. We've been here before, it is not new territory for us. We are looking forward to the challenge."