Six Nations: Jones eager to raise his game in Rome
ADAM Jones has shouldered the blame for Wales’ scrummaging troubles in Paris a fortnight ago – and Italy could be made to pay today.
The revered tighthead prop, who has made 85 Wales appearances and played Test rugby for the British and Irish Lions, can expect a stern examination opposite Italian cap centurion Andrea Lo Cicero. But 31-year-old Jones is in the mood to shunt aside his critics and keep Wales on course for a possible second successive RBS Six Nations title.
Wales assistant coach and forwards specialist Robin McBryde has targeted the scrum as an area for improvement and it will need to function consistently this weekend following a testing 80 minutes in that department against France.
A terrible Stade de France playing surface did not help, with the pitch cutting up badly from an early stage, but Jones has held his hands up. “You can blame many things, but at the end of the day it comes down to the tighthead,” he said. “It was my fault, really. As much as people say the scrum is an eight-man thing, it does need the tighthead to be straight and square. At times I felt I was under pressure. I will take it on the chin, I will take the blame – and then I will say the pitch was shocking!
“For us, there are a lot of things we can put right easily. There were a lot of things we didn’t do correctly. There were a couple of times when certain things happened and we know we should do better than that. If I can’t keep the scrum up, then the scrum isn’t going to stay up. It’s the be-all and end-all of my game and if I don’t do that well then obviously I have had a bad game.”
Experienced French referee Romain Poite will be in charge at the Stadio Olimpico today, where Wales feature for the first time in Six Nations combat 17 years after their only previous visit produced a 31-22 victory when current interim head coach Rob Howley and skills specialist Neil Jenkins were the half-backs. The scrums, as usual, will be a focal point of the contest, although an expected capacity crowd can only hope it does not develop into one tedious re-set after another.
Italy will go into the match with coach Jacques Brunel insisting the Azzurri are not a one-man team. But it remains to be seen whether or not the hosts can overcome the loss of their imperious captain Sergio Parisse.
The Stade Francais No 8 was sent off playing for his club against Bordeaux-Begles last weekend, and subsequently received a 40-day ban, ten days of which were suspended. Parisse is set to appeal that punishment, which was imposed for insulting referee Laurent Cardona, with a hearing likely next week. But as things stand he is sidelined until 18 March, ruling him out of Six Nations appointments with Wales, England and Ireland.
Leicester prop Martin Castrogiovanni has been handed leadership duties today, with Fiji-born Treviso No 8 Manoa Vosawai taking Parisse’s back-row place. Parisse apart, Brunel has made three changes from the team beaten comprehensively by Scotland a fortnight ago, with Kristopher Burton and Edoardo Gori teaming up at half-back and lock Antonio Pavanello replacing Quintin Geldenhuys.
“We have to look at this game against Wales with ambition,” Brunel said. “I think we can win it despite the absence of Parisse. There are lots of players who are very influential in the game. Sergio is undoubtedly one of them, but he isn’t the only one. We can’t think this team is dependent on one player.”
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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