Jones relishing All Blacks challenge
June 13, 2010
Wales skipper Ryan Jones toured New Zealand with the British & Irish Lions in 2005 © Getty Images
Wales captain Ryan Jones is relishing the opportunity to tackle the New Zealand on home soil - a task he considers the toughest any team can face.
But the Ospreys forward insists his side have a chance to write a new page in the history books when the two sides meet in Carisbrook, Dunedin on Saturday.
Jones first set foot in All Black territory with an impactful call-up to the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour, which saw him feature in all three Test matches after playing in every match in Wales' Six Nations Grand Slam winning season earlier that same year. Despite the lost series Jones has fond memories of the land of the long white cloud, both on the pitch, where he cemented his ball carrying reputation on the world stage.
"I've been very much looking forward to coming back," said Jones who arrived with his team in Auckland last Thursday, before travelling to Dunedin for the first Test match. Just driving in on the team coach to Auckland brought it all flooding back. We had some great times in some different places in the City and made some good friends. I really enjoyed the rugby we played on the tour, regardless of the ultimate result.
"This is a tough old place to come and play rugby - it's the toughest mountain you can climb in the game, probably the toughest place in the world to tour. But we hope we can produce something historic. New Zealand feels very much like home. It's a nation of people who love their rugby. We have had a great welcome and the people have all been friendly and they will be right up until Friday afternoon.
"Sometime on Friday the atmosphere will change as they all get behind the All Blacks - probably until Sunday when everyone will be nice to you again! That's how seriously they take their rugby in New Zealand. We are expecting intensity and we must match it. We have the opportunity to try to make some history and we have come here to do a job."
Wales have travelled with a strong and experienced 27-man squad which includes two uncapped players in Dragons wing Will Harris and Scarlets scrum-half Tavis Knoyle. They face the All Blacks in Carisbrook and then Waikato a week later on the back of a close fought 34-31 defeat to South Africa at the Millennium Stadium at the beginning of the month.
But Jones believes his side can learn from that loss at the hands of the world champions Springboks and build for a double assault on Kiwi soil. "We were hugely disappointed to miss out on wining the South Africa game - it was tough to take. But we know that the errors we made were things in our control and we can do something about them," added Jones.
"There were a lot of positives on display in that game we scored three tries and pushed the world champions right to the edge, we have a few things to work on but we have time to do that before we play the All Blacks. We know that if we can win one of these next two Tests then that could be the tipping point that changes the team psyche and means we start winning the close ones instead of losing them like we have been doing.
"There's no bigger game than New Zealand in their own back yard, but we are here to take them on and we are all really looking forward to it. We will be giving everything, it's going to be full pelt for 80, or 90 minutes as it is more often these days, but we won't be taking a backwards step."
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton