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Wales captain Warburton still in doubt for 6 Nations opener vs Italy next week

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LONDON - Sam Warburton thinks he will be available to captain Wales in their Six Nations rugby opener against Italy in 10 days but understands if he's not selected.

Warburton hasn't played since he suffered nerve damage in his right shoulder in Wales' 30-26 home loss to Australia on Nov. 30.

"I wouldn't play unless I was fit enough," Warburton said at the Six Nations launch in London on Wednesday.

"We will make a decision next week - I have got a couple of hurdles to overcome. One of those is taking contact. That's likely to occur later in the week."

What was more likely was for Warburton to get some matchplay under his belt for his Cardiff Blues club in the Anglo-Welsh Cup the day before the Wales-Italy game in Cardiff on Feb. 1.

"I need to have a chat with (Wales coach) Warren Gatland and the medics early next week to decide what's the best thing to do," Warburton added.

"I've done it a few times now, returned quickly after injury. The fitness work we do with the Wales squad is great stuff, and they would make sure I wouldn't play if I wasn't fit."

Gatland said he wouldn't risk his captain until the medical team cleared him.

"We will talk to Sam first," Gatland said. "It's about us making a clear decision about what's best for him, where he feels he's come in terms of starting, whether it's on the bench or going and having a game for the Blues. He's got some hurdles to clear later in the week."

Gatland confirmed Gethin Jenkins' left knee injury looked like preventing the prop from the Italy opener, and playing Ireland in Dublin on Feb. 8. And centre Jonathan Davies, recovering from a pulled chest muscle, could be available for the third-round match against France on Feb. 21 at Cardiff.

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