Wales drop captain Warburton to the bench

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James Mortimer     16 Nov 2012     Getty Images

Warburton, who 12 months ago was being hailed as perhaps the best flanker in the Northern Hemisphere, has been unable to impose himself in recent Test matches.

He led Wales to the 2011 Rugby World Cup and the Grand Slam earlier this year, but his reputation has taken a back step on the selection table with Welsh sides struggling on the domestic stages, and many superstars are by their own admission still to find their groove.

Justin Tipuric comes into the starting team to face Samoa to replace Warburton, while elsewhere in the back row Ryan Jones comes into the blindside position, and will assume the captaincy armband for the 29th time, surpassing legendary Welsh captain Ieuan Evans.

Jones replaces the injured Josh Turnbull, while Alun Wyn-Jones is out for the remainder of the year and will be replaced at lock by Bradlety Davies.

In the front row hooker Richard Hibbard starts in place of Matthew Rees, and Paul James comes in at prop for the experienced Gethin Jenkins.

In the back division, scrumhalf Mike Phillips starts with youngster Tavis Knoyle dropping to the bench, while Dan Biggar takes over at first five-eighth from Rhys Priestland.

Interim coach Rob Howley, overseeing the side while head coach Warren Gatland recovers from foot surgery, said the side needed to be freshened after Wales suffered their fourth straight defeat, following on from their 0-3 series defeat in Australia.

"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," Howley said.

"We know we are under pressure to perform and that pressure is greatest from within.”

Wales team to play Samoa: 15-Leigh Halfpenny, 14-Alex Cuthbert, 13-Ashley Beck, 12-Jamie Roberts, 11-George North, 10-Dan Biggar, 9-Mike Phillips, 8-Toby Faletau, 7-Justin Tipuric, 6-Ryan Jones, 5-Ian Evans, 4-Bradley Davies, 3-Aaron Jarvis, 2-Richard Hibbard, 1-Paul James

Replacements: 16-Ken Owens, 17-Gethin Jenkins, 18-Scott Andrews, 19-Luke Charteris, 20-Sam Warburton, 21-Tavis Knoyle, 22-Rhys Priestland, 23-Scott Williams