Sam Warburton has faced each of the current top five nations in the world game since making his Wales debut in 2009 – but he names the IRB World Ranking’s 10th placed Samoa as his toughest opposition to date.

Warburton has lined up against Australia on no less than six occasions, taken on England four times, France three times and played both New Zealand and South Africa once inside his three year international career – meaning half of his 30-caps have been against the world governing body’s top five ranked teams.

A Southern Hemisphere scalp still escapes him, although he has come within a score of victory over both the Wallabies (twice) and the Springboks. His record reads two wins apiece after four clashes with the auld enemy England and he is one from three against France, but it is his two victories over the South Sea Islanders which he says were hardest fought.

The Wales and Cardiff Blues flanker made his first senior start against Samoa in the Autumn International Series at the Millennium Stadium in 2009 – a fixture which will be repeated in the Dove Men Series next month (16 November, 7.30pm).

Wales finished 17-13 victors in Cardiff in 2009 and Warburton would go on to revisit this baptism of fire at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand when he lead his country to a another close fought 17-10 victory over Samoa in the second round of the Pool stages.

Warburton’s Wales completed the RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam last season and have since travelled down under for a three Test tour of Australia, but the national captain says he will never forget his baptism of fire against Samoa and ranks their World Cup meeting as the toughest match of his short but illustrious career.

“Samoa is probably the toughest international game that I’ve played in, both when we played them in the World Cup and for my first start for Wales as well,” said Warburton.

“I’ve got very fond memories of playing against them in my first start for Wales, you know what you are going to get with them, they are an extremely tough physical side, but just because you know what’s coming it doesn’t make it any easier.

“Even though I’ve beaten them when we played them, two times out of two, you don’t forget how physical they are, particularly in the tackle area, so it’s going to be a very hard game.

“The game in the Rugby World Cup was a particularly tough match, I know everyone talks about their physicality and it’s difficult to put into words exactly where that impression comes from unless you’ve played against them.

“It’s easy to see the big hits and there are plenty of them but generally speaking as well, when they clean out in rucks and in defence they don’t tend to hold anything back at all.

“They are great to play against, but if you are on the wrong end of a hospital pass then it’s not too pleasant, but it’s great to play these teams and experience different rugby styles and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Wales face Argentina on Saturday, 10 November, the week before Samoa’s visit to the Millennium Stadium, and then come up against the All Blacks and Wallabies on successive Saturday’s in Cardiff and Warburton admits, as well as preparing well for Samoa and the Pumas, his side also has some unfinished business when it comes to Australia.

“We definitely want to get our own back when we reflect on the summer,” said Warburton, who lead Wales down under to a 3-0 Test defeat, despite losing out to last minute Wallaby scores on two occasions.

“A 3-0 loss in the Series was not a nice score from our point of view, so we’d definitely love to get that win.

“Everyone is dying for us to get that Southern Hemisphere scalp, it’s probably just as annoying for the fans as it is for us.

“We’d love to get that win more than anything against any of the four sides this Autumn, but in particular Australia because we’ve played them a few times recently and come close, but not close enough.”

But the Wales captain, who many are tipping to take on similar duties on the British & Irish Lions tour of Australia next summer, knows it all starts against Argentina where victory will be vital to get the international season off on the right footing.

“We have a series of tough matches to look forward, not least the first game of the series against Argentina who have been impressing everyone in the Rugby Championship,” said Warburton.

“The Pumas are getting closer to the top three teams, just as we like to think we are and they will be looking to send a message around the rugby watching world by beating us in November.

“They are very much the same as Samoa in a lot of ways, they are a very physical team as well.

“Australia probably play quicker rugby and are a bit more expansive but the Pumas will be just as tough.

“All three of those games I think will be great spectacles and great rugby matches. The standard that Argentina are playing at now because of their involvement in the Rugby Championship now will make them even more competitive.

“I watched them against Australia and it was a game Argentina lost rather than the Wallabies won. They scored two tries and played very well, it was in Australia as well, and we know how tough it is to go out to Australia and play, so I was very impressed with that match.

“They have a couple of real world class players they gave us a tough test when they came to the Millennium Stadium in the world cup warm up game last summer and I’m sure it will be equally as tough again because of the standard of rugby they’ve been exposed to the last few months.”

And fellow international and Blues team-mate Jamie Roberts agrees that Wales will be very much up for the challenge this November.

“What the players love about the autumn is it’s four games on the bounce all at the Millennium Stadium,” added Roberts.

“In the Six Nations it’s two or three games at home spread out, but in the autumn its great for the players.

“We stay in our camp all month and get to play in front of four great crowds at the Millennium Stadium.

“We have by far the best stadium I’ve ever played in and players from other nations will say the same.

“When it’s full it’s a cauldron atmosphere in there and we can barely hear each other speak sometimes on the pitch when they fans are cheering.

“It’s just an unbelievable occasion and a great spectacle with the flames and the fireworks beforehand, as a player it’s an awesome experience and I’m sure it will be no different this autumn.”


10 November 2012, 1430hrs, Millennium Stadium - WALES v ARGENTINA Adults £30 U16 £10

16 November 2012, 1930hrs, Millennium Stadium - WALES v SAMOA Adults £25 U16 £10

1 December 2012 1430 hrs, Millennium Stadium - WALES v AUSTRALIA From £60

Tickets online: wru.co.ukTel: 0844 2 777 888


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