Hibbard backs Lee for big things


Published: Tuesday 3rd February 2015 by The News Editor

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Samson Lee has been tasked with following one of Welsh rugby’s most celebrated players on the international stage – but he will be accompanied by some rave reviews.

The 22-year-old Scarlets tighthead prop has already played nine times for Wales, but Friday night’s clash against England in Cardiff sees him making his RBS 6 Nations debut.

It is also the first game Wales have played since 95 times-capped tighthead titan Adam Jones announced his retirement from international rugby.

Lee had established himself as first-choice in his position at Test level during recent months, yet the focus now becomes even more concentrated on a player who promises to be an integral World Cup figure for Wales later this year.

And hooker Richard Hibbard, who Lee will pack down alongside against England, has no doubt he possesses every attribute required to become an outstanding success story.

“Anybody who takes Adam’s spot is impressive in my eyes,” Gloucester forward Hibbard said.

“I think with Samson – and I’ve played against him a few times at the Scarlets – he is a tough nugget.

“I do rate him highly, and look at him – he is only 22. He is still young yet and has got plenty of years to develop, so he is definitely one for now and the future.

“He will enjoy it on Friday. He is the type of boy who enjoys that sort of stuff.

“He is experienced enough now, he’s played in some big games, he has been one of our key men and he knows what to expect and how to prepare for it.

“Adam is a scrum legend. He has stepped aside and Samson has come through, so there are definitely big boots to fill. If anyone can do it, I think Samson can.”

Hibbard and Lee will line up against an England team shorn of several leading players through injury, with Manu Tuilagi, Brad Barritt, Owen Farrell, Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury, Tom Wood and Ben Morgan among their absentees.

But Hibbard, who is halfway through his first season in the Aviva Premiership, has seen enough of English rugby’s flagship domestic competition to believe the national team will still take some beating.

“The strength in the Premiership is unreal,” he added. “I think whoever takes the field for England is going to be strong, big and powerful, so it’s not going to be that too detrimental to them.

“Obviously, when you’ve played against them, like I have done this season, you know the typical big English pack mentality.

“The league is relentless. You have to raise your game every week. You’ve got to play well every time.

“It’s going to be a tough encounter on Friday. Injuries or no injuries, they are going to be a tough outfit.”

After this week, the next time Wales and England get to grips with each other will be in a World Cup pool encounter at Twickenham on September 26.

And while that World Cup meeting is still more than seven months away, Hibbard believes Friday’s Six Nations showdown has its relevance.

“It is a battle in the war,” he said.

“It will have significance. It’s a massive game and will give someone the mental edge ahead of the World Cup.

“But, again, it can change in so little time. Both of us could have eight players ruled out (injured) for the World Cup game.”

Published: Tuesday 3rd February 2015 by The News Editor

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