Jones expects Wales to push on
September 13, 2011
Wales lock Alun-Wyn Jones celebrates Toby Faletau's try during Sunday's riveting clash with the Springboks © Getty Images
Wales may have kicked off their Rugby World Cup campaign with a heart-breaking 17-16 defeat by South Africa which has again raised questions over their mental strength but lock Alun-Wyn Jones believes that he and his team-mates will be able to generate some serious momentum out of their performance in Wellington.
Warren Gatland's men had the defending champions on the ropes midway through the second half of the game at the Westpac Stadium, with a storming try from No.8 Toby Faletau having helped them into a deserved 16-10 lead. However, they then allowed the shell-shocked South Africans to gradually wrest back back the initiative, Francois Hougaard's converted touchdown turning the game back in the Springboks' favoure. Even then, though, Wales had two opportunities to win the game but they squandered both, with Rhys Priestland slicing an easy drop goal attempt and James Hook missing a penalty from wide on the right-hand side.
Given that Wales have made a habit of blowing big leads against the Springboks in the past couple of seasons, some pundits were again quick to admonish them for a lack of bottle. However, rather than be demoralised by defeat in a game that they clearly should have won, Jones feels that Wales will now build on their stirring performance and use it to spur them to victory in their upcoming games against Samoa, Namibia and Fiji.
"The funny thing is we are always under pressure, given the nature of the beast and what we are involved in,'' he said. "Sometimes, the bigger the game, the better the player and the better the team can be for it.
"It's only one game in, but we are trying to create that momentum that we had when we've been involved in Six Nations Grand Slams in the past.
"The first win here has proved elusive, but there is momentum even from a loss this time, which we can use to our advantage.
"It was a massive disappointment losing by a point. I think you would rather get pumped than lose by one. But there was also so much good we can take from that game.''
Jones, though, knows that Wales now have plenty of work to do to reach the last eight, starting with Samoa in Hamilton on Sunday. The Samoans stunned the rugby world by beating Australia in their own backyard in July and Jones was hugely impressed by their performance in Sydney.
"The outstanding thing about them in that game was their work in contact," the Ospreys second-row said. "They dominated that area, which was a big achievement given the strength of Australia's back-row. Samoa's number seven (Maurie Fa'asavalu) was exceptional in that match.
"Samoa have always had great individuals, guys who figure for European teams, but they seemed to come together against Australia and won the contact.
"We can learn a lot from watching that Australia game when they did a good job on the Wallabies, but it will be interesting to see how they go in their first game out here (against Namibia on Wednesday.''
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September