International Rugby
Warburton admits Rolland got big call right
ESPNscrum Staff
November 4, 2011
Wales skipper Sam Warburton sends Vincent Clerc sprawling, Wales v France, Rugby World Cup semi-final, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, October 15, 2011
Warburton tackles France's Vincent Clerc on his way to a red card in their Rugby World Cup semi-final clash © Getty Images

Wales flanker Sam Warburton insists he has no complaints about the red card that ended his Rugby World Cup in dramatic fashion last month.

Coach Warren Gatland, and plenty of media pundits, were quick to criticise Irish referee Alain Rolland following Warburton's 17th minute dismissal for a dangerous tackle on France's Vincent Clerc during their semi-final clash at Eden Park. The controversial decision contributed to Wales' agonising 9-8 defeat but the man himself says he has no complaints after watching the incident again.

Warburton, currently serving a three-week ban for the tackle, said: "I have seen it played back, the tackle is a lot uglier than I thought it was at the time. When I looked at it on the replays it looked worse than I thought it was.

"I didn't intend it to look like that and I had only had a yellow card in my career so it was a shock to get a red, but there was nothing I could do and I just had to support the boys for the rest of that game and the forthcoming fixture.

"At the end of the day the IRB said if you lift up a player and drop him it's a red card, and that's exactly what I did. I can't complain. There was no point in appealing against it and I didn't have a leg to stand on really."

The 23-year-old Warburton hopes he can follow David Beckham's example and ensure his sending-off does not become the defining moment of his career. Beckham was burned in effigy by angry fans following his dismissal for kicking Argentina's Diego Simeone, but has gone on to become one of the most respected figures in the game.

"I hope it's not what I am remembered for, but if in a year's time or 10 years' time people are still talking about it then maybe it will be," he said. "It's one of those moments that has happened and hopefully I can build some better memories, whether it is for Cardiff or Wales.

"People will remember it, it was a massive event in rugby, but it's just sport. Those things happen. But David Beckham is remembered for a lot of other things other than his red card against Argentina.

"Things like that happen and it's up to myself to be positive in the future and create some better memories. It's not a motivation for me to get rid of the red card, it's happened and I am looking forward to getting back on the pitch. I stopped thinking about it about two days after it happened and I am just focused on the Blues now."

Wales will look to move on from their World Cup heartache when they face Australia at the Millennium Stadium next month, before embarking on the Six Nations. But the future of Gatland's backroom staff remains up in the air after their contracts expired at the end of their stint in New Zealand.

Assistant coach Shaun Edwards, who left his post with Wasps yesterday, is one of those who is currently a free agent and Warburton hopes to see the former Wigan rugby league legend rapidly signed up by the Welsh Rugby Union.

"I love working with Shaun," he said. "He has helped my defensive game a lot. Since I have been involved with Shaun the defensive side of my game has really improved. Dan [Lydiate], Toby [Faletau] and myself as a back row do a lot of work with Shaun, he is a great asset and hopefully he stays here."

Warburton led Wales in New Zealand in the absence of regular captain Matthew Rees, who missed the World Cup with a neck problem. But the Scarlets hooker has recently returned to action and has stated his desire to take back the captaincy. Warburton readily admits he would be keen to hold on to the leadership role, but will go with whatever decision head coach Gatland makes ahead of next month's meeting with the Wallabies.

"I can understand both scenarios," he said. "If it was offered to me again I would take it, but Matthew did a great job during the Six Nations so I would understand if they want to give it back to him, but personally I would love to hold on to it after enjoying it at the World Cup."

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