Jones determined to add dynamic edge
February 21, 2008
Speed machine Mark Jones is ready to exploit Italy's new-look back three and fast-track Wales to a third straight RBS 6 Nations victory.
Jones has returned to the Wales side for Saturday's showdown in Cardiff, after being dropped for the 30-15 win over Scotland.
The Italians have been forced to include Andrea Marcato at full-back and Alberto Sgarbi on the wing - a duo with just five caps between them - after both David Bortolussi and Kaine Robertson were injured in the narrow defeat to England.
While most of the pre-match headlines have been dominated by Wales' clash with one of the most powerful packs in world rugby, Jones is ready to strike the telling blows out wide.
''I would like to think that I can bring something extra to the team, with my attacking ability,'' said Jones.
''I look at our back three - and without meaning to be arrogant, I think we probably have more than they do.
''Names on the sheet don't mean anything until you get on the park - but I like to think that if I, Shane (Williams) and Lee (Byrne) can get the ball in hand in a little bit of space, in good positions, we can cause them some problems.''
Jones was dropped following the opening-round win over England, largely because he was not up to speed with the new blitz defensive system employed by Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards.
The Ospreys are the only regional side in Wales to use the system - and Jones, the Llanelli Scarlets winger, has been playing catch-up.
Being axed after helping Wales to their first win at Twickenham in 20 years was a painful experience - but Jones has been through much worse in his career.
He spent two years on the sidelines, with his career in jeopardy after having reconstructions on both knees.
Gatland puts a great deal of stock in the way a dropped player responds to the decision and he was impressed by Jones' determination to work on the defensive system and force his way back in.
''I like to think I'm not a sulker or a moper,'' said Jones.
''Being dropped from the national team is one of the worst things that can happen to you - but from an injury point of view, I've had far worse happen to me.
''If I had moped around the place feeling sorry for myself then, I probably wouldn't have come back to play rugby again.
''I try to stay positive, although it is difficult sometimes. I was pretty gutted when I was dropped. But that is professional sport - and as the old cliche goes: 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger'.
''The good thing was that I was able to go away and work on things he had highlighted.''
Jones expects a ferocious assault from the Italians, who came close against Ireland and England but ended up losing twice.
Wales have not beaten Italy since the 2005 grand slam campaign.
But they are chasing a third straight victory for the first time since that championship season and are ready for the Azzurri.
''They are targeting this game as a good opportunity to pick up a win,'' said Jones.
''I heard their captain Sergio Parisse say that they have been really frustrated with their performance in the first 15-20 minutes of the matches so far, so I'm expecting them to come out all guns blazing this weekend.''
Concussion, relegation and the mother of all surprises - it's the Monday Maul.