Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Warburton on cusp of being cleared to captain Wales

Sam Warburton has survived training and is on the cusp of being cleared to captain Wales at the start of their three test series with the All Blacks.

After Warburton's latest shoulder mishap though the tourists are wary about making any definitive statement until the flanker passes a final inspection from the team physios.

That will be completed before Thursday when the side to play at Eden Park is revealed.

"His shoulder is improving quite dramatically and I think he will be there or thereabouts," assistant coach Shaun Edwards said.

"I think Sam is one of the few guys possibly who can go into a game not having played for a few weeks and be pretty sharp.

"He's that kind of guy and keeps himself very fit and is working quite hard on his conditioning so we are hopeful that he is going to be up for selection."

That sounds like rugby-talk for Warburton filling the No 7 jersey and his leadership duties as Wales have another tilt at knocking over the All Blacks 63-year winning streak against them.

It was reinforced as Edwards spoke about how Wales would be boosted by having their best player and captain fit to take on the All Blacks in their first outing for the year.

"He is vital for us but it's like anything else if he doesn't make it there will be some other young bloke putting his hand up and I'm sure he will be giving it 100 per cent."

Wales are looking for any sort of help and former Kiwi coach Graham Lowe, an old mate of Edwards at Wigan, was at the team hotel today offering his advice.

"Lowey was one of the greatest coaches I ever played under and a lot of stuff he uses for motivation I still use it nowadays. The stuff what he taught me will last for a lifetime and maybe I will pass it on to my players who will be using it in another 20 years.

"I have massive respect for Graham and I am just delighted he came down to see me."

Lowe taught the players about work ethic and that no matter how talented they were, hard work was the bedrock of success.

That influence had carried through into Edwards' work with Wales.

He got players sorted for important games in particular and showed with his record for the Kiwis and Wigan like the 27-0 Challenge Cup final victory against St Helens in 1989.

The All Blacks were beatable at Eden Park if Wales did everything right but it was a massive task against a team who were the best in the world, not just the rugby world but ahead of Barcelona and all the American teams.

"If we execute, execute, execute we are in with a chance."

* Prop Aaron Jarvis is flying in as cover for Paul James and Tuesday's game with the Chiefs

- NZ Herald

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