Wales legends backing Justin Tipuric for Paris start
THREE Wales greats have lined up to urge Rob Howley to pick Justin Tipuric against France this weekend — even if it means leaving out skipper Sam Warburton.
Shane Williams, Phil Bennett and Barry John all called for Tipuric to be named in the starting line-up for the Six Nations encounter in Paris after the impact he made in Saturday's 30-22 defeat by Ireland.
Wales were 30-3 adrift when Tipuric came on four minutes into the second half, the Osprey then helping Howley's team claw back 19 points before time ran out on them.
Howley's problem is that Warburton is his captain, but John is adamant Wales have to pick on form for the game in the French capital in five days' time.
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"I'd put Justin Tipuric in at seven," he said.
"Loyalty is a massive thing in team sport — but you can be too loyal and maybe it's time for skipper Sam Warburton to go on the bench.
"Sentiment doesn't come into sport."
Fellow fly-half legend Bennett said: "The game became much looser (in the second half) and that suited Justin Tipuric, who made a huge impact when he came on.
"Tipuric has been in superb form all season and I would probably pick him ahead of the Warburton for the game in France next week."
Warburton had a solid game against Ireland, doing what he could to lift Wales after a disastrous first half that saw them outclassed by the visitors, and some will be concerned his chances of leading the Lions in Australia this summer might be jeopardised by being shifted to blindside flanker.
But the bandwagon for Tipuric to be given the Wales No. 7 shirt is gathering pace.
Williams, a former team-mate of both players, said: "It isn't going to be easy for Rob Howley.
"There will be new faces in the side for next week and given the way Justin Tipuric played when he came on he has to find a way of getting him into his starting line-up.
''That could even mean dropping the captain."
It is far from a done deal the skipper will make way, though.
A rib injury to Aaron Shingler could mean there is a vacancy at No. 6 but if Ryan Jones is fit he would be favourite to step into the breach against a French side who will pack more power up front than Ireland.
And Wales were far from selling shares in Warburton in the aftermath of the game in Cardiff.
"Justin is always going to put pressure on, because he is that type of player," said forwards coach Robin McBryde.
"What you have to bear in mind as well is what Sam brings to the team and would we be completely fair to Sam if we were to play him at six?
"That's the dilemma.
"And it's important we get that balance in the back row with regards our ball carrying. It's not all about the breakdown, either. When you think about the weight in the scrum, France are completely different from Ireland with regards the way they go about things. So there's plenty to chew on."
Also under pressure is Gethin Jenkins after a big set-piece impact from Paul James against Ireland, while Richard Hibbard could come into contention if he shakes off his shoulder injury.