Wales v France, Six Nations, March 17
Tipuric: I can fill Warburton void
March 12, 2012
Justin Tipuric looks to offload under pressure against Italy © Getty Images
Wales flanker Justin Tipuric has backed himself to step into the sizeable void left by skipper Sam Warburton if the openside fails to return to fitness in time to face France.
The 22-year-old Ospreys flanker proved his quality with a fine showing in Wales' 24-3 victory over Italy that set up next weekend's Six Nations title and Grand Slam tilt. The Wales squad will reassemble at their rural training base today, with Warburton's fitness set to top the early-week agenda.
Warburton has played just one-and-a-half games in this season's Six Nations so far, suffering a thigh injury against opening opponents Ireland that forced him off at half-time, and then missing Saturday's victory over Italy due to a knee problem. The Wales camp say current medical opinion is that Warburton will be fit to tackle France, although it could conceivably be much later in the week before Tipuric knows either way.
"I am ready," Tipuric said. "Sam has made a name for himself - look at what he's done - but I have just got to keep working on my game and enjoy my rugby with the Ospreys. I've got to be patient.
"We both push each other to become better players."
Tipuric made his first Wales start against Italy, and he believes that experience will put him in good stead if he is summoned to face France. "You are part of it when you are on the bench, but it's obviously a bit of a different feeling when you start a match," Tipuric said. "If I am lucky enough to be involved, it does give me an advantage of having had 80 minutes under my belt against Italy.
"I loved it. I just try to go on the pitch to enjoy myself and prove myself as a player."
Wales wing George North, meanwhile, is confident that Wales' Grand Slam-chasing squad can sidestep the external hype and hysteria that will surround their every move this week. "We can't really deny the fact we have a Grand Slam game coming up," 19-year-old Scarlets star North said. "It is something we can think about now, but it is just another Test match, really. I think it will be a good game - a great spectacle.
"There is going to be a lot of hype this week - I am sure it will be built up nicely for us. But we are quite good at blanking things out. We will just dig in and do our job, and whatever people want to say, they can say. We will just come in on Monday morning and train hard.
"I am sure there are plenty of people who will hype up the game left, right and centre, but we want to let our rugby do the talking."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.