Jones demands Wales deliver
February 12, 2010
Wales fly-half Stephen Jones shifts the ball during his side's opening Championship defeat to England © Getty Images
Wales fly-half Stephen Jones believes his side owe coach Warren Gatland a big performance against Scotland at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
Wales hopes of a Grand Slam and a Triple crown were ended by a 30-17 defeat at the hands of England last weekend but Gatland has refused to panic with the introduction of Cardiff Blues wing Leigh Halfpenny and Ospreys lock Jonathan Thomas the only changes to his side.
Lose tomorrow - Scotland last won in Cardiff eight years ago - and the heat will intensify on a Wales team that has not consistently hit top gear since a breathtaking opening hour left the Scots reeling 12 months ago. And Jones, who will win his 85th Test cap this weekend, insists his side must repay that faith with a return to winning ways.
"We have to look at ourselves," said Jones. "We have a top-draw set-up, and it is about us players delivering. When you lose, you know things haven't gone your way as a team and you have under-achieved. You come under a lot of pressure and are aware selection issues will arise. But the management have stuck with the bulk of the team that played against England and it is up to us to repay that faith and perform.
"When we kept the ball (against England) and had good continuity I thought, in patches, we looked very good and dangerous. That's the positive and it is what we have to deliver for 80 minutes on Saturday. If England had been dominant in every aspect then we would be very down and we would be asking 'where do we go from here?' but that is not the case.
"We have to win, we have to be successful - we have to be. We believe in our own ability, we believe in the squad we have and the management we have. It's a massive game for us after last Saturday. The frustrating thing is that we were not as sharp and accurate as we needed to be. England played very well, but we lost out through our own inaccuracy. If we want to be one of the best teams then we have to make sure we deliver our gameplan on the field."
The Twickenham statistics compounded Welsh frustration, especially at fly-half, where Jones passed the ball 24 times more than his opposite number Jonny Wilkinson and Wales still lost by 13 points.
"We want to try to play open rugby, but you are governed by certain things like possession, where you are on the field and whether you are on the front foot," added Jones. "Our gameplan is to get our brilliant runners we have into the game as often and as early as we can. We have to try to manipulate the opposition as well. We are looking for a variety, and it's a fine line, which is why we came in really frustrated and disappointed after Saturday."
Jones has featured on the winning side seven times from nine attempts against Scotland, scoring a total of 95 points, but that impressive record will not lull him into a false sense of security. He knows enough about Scotland's threat - especially via the physical midfield presence of his Scarlets team-mate Sean Lamont and cap centurion Chris Paterson's prodigious points-scoring ability - not to expect an easy ride.
"I would never under-estimate Scotland," he said. "I know it's going to be hard job marking Sean because he is a good athlete. He's a good professional, a good influence, an intelligent guy. And Scotland are very lucky to have a player like Chris. England have Jonny, Ireland have Ronan O'Gara or Jonathan Sexton and Scotland have Chris. He's top-draw. He is a brilliant kicker, so we cannot afford to give away silly points.
"For sure, it is going to be a challenge this weekend, but we are the ones playing at home, we are the ones disappointed with our performance last Saturday and we have got to make sure that we perform."
Wales assistant coach Rob Howley has paid also tribute to Paterson on the eve of him joining international rugby's 100-cap club. He becomes only the 11th player to hit that landmark for his country, emulating former Test stars like George Gregan, Philippe Sella, Jason Leonard, Percy Montgomery and David Campese. But in addition to his milestone feat, Wales know Paterson presents a considerable threat towards them maintaining an eight-year unbeaten home record at Scotland's expense.
"He is one of the most consistent goalkickers in world rugby, and what an accolade to achieve 100 caps," said Howley. "He jumps into that group of players who have done it, and he's only 31. He is a very intelligent rugby player. He has got that ability to put Scotland in areas of the field in terms of his kicking, and I am sure we will see that on Saturday afternoon.
"Our discipline has to be pretty important. We can't afford to give away any silly penalties in the contact area, or any other area, for that matter."
As if to back up Howley's point, Paterson has landed his last 34 successive Six Nations goal-kicks. Remarkably, he has not missed in the tournament since a conversion attempt hit the post against France in Paris on March 17, 2007.
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