Sam Warburton to miss Wales clash with Samoa
Sam Warburton has been left out of the Wales team for Friday night's Millennium Stadium clash against Samoa.
Cardiff Blues flanker Warburton, who captained Wales at the World Cup last autumn, and in their Grand Slam-winning RBS 6 Nations campaign last season, is replaced by Ospreys openside Justin Tipuric.
With Warburton on the bench, back-row forward Ryan Jones takes over as skipper and leads Wales for a record 29th time, eclipsing the mark he previously held jointly with Ieuan Evans.
Wales' interim head coach Rob Howley has made eight changes from the side beaten 26-12 at home by Argentina last weekend, with starts for Tipuric, Jones, centre Ashley Beck, fly-half Dan Biggar, scrum-half Mike Phillips, prop Paul James, hooker Richard Hibbard and lock Bradley Davies.
Centre Jamie Roberts, meanwhile, is named in the starting XV after going off in the first-half against Argentina with what the Welsh Rugby Union described as mild concussion.
Jones missed the Pumas clash because of a shoulder injury that he meant he flew home early from Wales' pre-autumn Tests training camp in Poland earlier this month, but he now steps into the number six shirt.
Josh Turnbull filled the blindside flanker's role against Argentina with Jones unavailable, but he will now miss the remaining autumn games due to a knee ligament problem.
Lock Alun-Wyn Jones (shoulder) is also absent from appointments with Samoa, New Zealand and Australia, and hooker Matthew Rees was not considered for selection this week because of a calf muscle injury.
Warburton, prop Gethin Jenkins, scrum-half Tavis Knoyle, fly-half Rhys Priestland and centre Scott Williams - who all started last Saturday - are on bench duty this time around.
Wales have traditionally made changes for the Friday night fixture of their autumn programme, and Howley was always going to assess an in-form Tipuric at some stage of the campaign.
And with 31-year-old Jones comfortably the leading blindside alternative to long-term injury victim Dan Lydiate, Warburton's omission is perhaps not the surprise it has been highlighted as in some quarters.
Howley said: "With a short six-day turnaround it was important for us to freshen things up and also make use of the competition for places we have within this squad, something which has been a key ingredient for the success of the squad over the last 18 months.
"In making changes, we also needed to bring in some genuine experience.
"It is important to have leaders throughout the team, and we are hoping the likes of Mike Phillips, who made a positive impact last week, can bring his experience to the side.
"Ryan reaches an impressive personal milestone. It will be a huge honour for him, but in the context of what happened last week his and the team's priorities are about producing a performance.
"We know we are under pressure to perform, and that pressure is greatest from within.
"This squad has shown in the past that we have the character and resilience to get back to winning ways. We have every confidence that we will come back strongly on Friday night."
Wales are chasing their first victory since beating the Barbarians more than five months ago. They lost all three Tests to Australia during the summer, and then came horribly unstuck against Argentina.
Samoa, though, have run them close in the last two meetings, losing a 2011 World Cup pool game 17-10 in Hamilton, two years after going down 17-13 in Cardiff.