Wales v New Zealand, Millennium Stadium, November 27
Gatland: Jones not a scapegoat
ESPNscrum Staff
November 26, 2010
Wales' Ryan Jones reflects on his side's draw with Fiji, Wales v Fiji, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, November 19, 2010
Ryan Jones reflects on his side's draw with Fiji © Getty Images

Wales coach Warren Gatland has dismissed suggestions that Ryan Jones was made a scapegoat in the wake of their dismal 16-16 draw with Fiji in Cardiff last weekend.

The Ospreys No.8 has been replaced as national skipper by hooker Matthew Rees for Saturday's meeting with New Zealand, but retains his place in the back-row.

The announcement of the captaincy change was made to players and media alike less than an hour after the final whistle against Fiji, leading several former internationals to criticise Gatland's handling of the situation.

Jones was guilty of conceding the late penalty that levelled the scores but Gatland has rejected the idea that it was a knee-jerk reaction.

"The decision wasn't made after the Fijian match," he said. "I had spoken to Matthew about this last week, I had spoken to some senior players, I informed the Ospreys last week before the match this was going to happen, and I decided to make the announcement in the changing room after the game.

"It wasn't a knee-jerk reaction after the Fiji match, as people are trying to portray it was. I don't think Ryan played badly. One of the things he has done in the past is that he's responded when he has been under pressure - he has responded well to criticism. It's a great chance for him to go out and show people what he's capable of doing and playing like."

Wales are without a win in their last six Tests and Gatland admitted that the criticism faced this week has been fierce.

"It's been a tough week in terms of criticism," he said. "Whenever the decision was announced, we knew it was always going to create some sort of media furore. Once I had said to the team that Matthew would be captain for this week, I thought it was only proper to let the media know that decision was going to take place.

"I could understand that people, without myself being questioned, could assume that it was a reaction from the disappointment of the performance, and he was made a scapegoat. But that definitely wasn't the case. As coaches, we were going to make that decision.

"I feel there has been a time when people have been waiting to have a real crack, and they decided to have a real crack this week. A certain part of the job is taking the criticism and then how you respond to it, as coaches and players. I don't decry people having an opportunity to give opinions and to be critical."

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