Skipper Sam Warburton says that Wales can get back to winning ways against Ireland
CAPTAIN Sam Warburton believes Wales' loss of a winning formula is "easily recoverable" as they prepare to defend the RBS 6 Nations title.
Wales have not beaten another Test-playing country since defeating France in last season's tournament finale to land the Six Nations crown in Grand Slam fashion.
A run of seven successive defeats included four losses against Australia by a combined total of 13 points, while double Grand Slam-winning coach Warren Gatland will also not be at the Six Nations helm prior to leading the British and Irish Lions tour Down Under later this year.
Rob Howley has been handed interim charge for the Six Nations campaign, and he has had to contend with a lengthy injury list that features absentees like Rhys Priestland, Alun-Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Luke Charteris and Bradley Davies.
Warburton, though, is ready to roll up his sleeves and spearhead another major Six Nations title assault, starting against Ireland in Cardiff on Saturday week.
"You don't become a bad side overnight, just like you don't become a good one," Warburton said at today's Six Nations media launch.
"It wasn't long ago we had some really good performances and really good wins. People are talking about Welsh rugby as if it has completely gone down to the pan.
"It is easily recoverable. We might have had seven losses in a row, but some of those have been really tight matches. Players appreciate it is the fine line of international rugby.
"I don't like losing. Players will remember the feeling they had in the changing room after the autumn matches, and they won't want to feel that again.
"The biggest message we can take from the last six months is just to play with more confidence. When we've done that we've had good performances."
Openside specialist Warburton could find himself in an unfamiliar number six shirt when Wales launch the Six Nations against Ireland.
With Ospreys flanker Justin Tipuric in blistering form, the option of playing two sevens in the same back-row alongside Toby Faletau cannot be dismissed. None of Wales' coaching staff have so far ruled it out.
"I would be more than happy to play anywhere in the back-row with Wales," Warburton added. "There have been moments in games when I have covered six and eight already.
"We've got players who are very versatile. Aaron Shingler has moved across the back-row, so has Josh Turnbull, and Toby has had a game at seven.
"Back-row is one of the areas where positions are quite transferable. There is logic to playing two sevens, but I guess it depends what opposition you are playing against and the rest of the balance in the back-five."
Wales head to Paris and an appointment with France seven days after tackling Ireland, and with momentum key in a tournament like the Six Nations, Warburton and company know they can put down a strong marker by making a flying start.
"It is a really nice feeling going into the tournament as reigning champions. We can take great confidence from that," he said.
"We know how important momentum is, and I am sure every nation will be putting a lot of pressure on themselves to make sure they win their first match.
"We might not have done as well results-wise in the last six months, but particularly against Australia a lot of those results have been by one or two points and could easily have gone our way."
Howley, meanwhile, delivered a positive fitness update today surrounding former Wales captain Ryan Jones, who dislocated his thumb during Ospreys' Heineken Cup game against Leicester 10 days ago.
And Lydiate, last season's Six Nations player of the tournament, remains ahead of schedule in his fightback from a serious ankle injury suffered more than three months ago.
"With Ryan it is just the healing process. We are confident he will be available for selection for the Ireland game," Howley said.
"Dan is looking to be probably available at the latter end of the championship. He is ahead in terms of his recuperation at the moment.
"He is ahead of schedule, but we are obviously mindful of workload. We will take that decision as, and when, we need to.
"Player welfare is so important, and we need to look after Dan and just not put him in for the sake of putting him in.
"If he's right, both physically and mentally, and he is available then he comes into our selection."