Jones keen to avoid another Rome nightmare
March 6, 2007
Mark Jones is determined to avoid any repeat of 2003 as Wales gear up for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations showdown with Italy in Rome.
Four years ago, Wales slid to their first defeat to the Azzurri and were condemned to the wooden spoon just months before the World Cup.
This weekend they head back to the Stadio Flaminio facing a similar predicament after successive championship defeats to Ireland, Scotland and France.
Wales produced a much-improved performance in Paris two weekends ago following the Murrayfield defeat.
Jones insists Wales must build on that again if they are to shunt both their Six Nations campaign and World Cup preparations back on track.
``I played in that game four years ago. It was very similar to the Scotland match last month,'' Jones recalled.
``We didn't really control our own ball on the day, there were a couple of opportunities we didn't take and Italy put up tremendous defence on the day.
``It was the first time we had lost to Italy and (it) was a disappointing day.
``A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then - I've had two knee reconstructions - but there are guys here like Tom Shanklin who were involved in that game.
``We don't want to allow anything like that to happen again.''
Jones is hopeful Wales will respond to the Scotland debacle in the same way they did to that disappointment in Rome four years ago.
Wales finally lifted themselves out of a deep slump at the World Cup and Jones pinpoints the Italy game as the catalyst.
``It was a shock to the system and it fuelled our work ethic and discipline which allowed us to do as well as we did at the World Cup,'' he said.
``When we played France last week we were hurting after the Scotland game. We were aware that performance had been nowhere near our potential. I feel the important thing this week is that we produce a quality performance and get the victory.''
The pressure is growing on head coach Gareth Jenkins, who has beaten only Canada and the Pacific Islands in nine Tests.
He admitted: ``A win would do us a power of good. We need a win desperately.''
But a powerful Italian side lie in wait. The Azzurri will be buoyed by their victory over Scotland two weekends ago and memories of last year's draw with Wales at the Millennium Stadium.
Jenkins is not underestimating the task at hand.
He has been closely studying the mistakes England and Scotland made in their games against Italy and is determined to succeed where Brian Ashton and, to a greater degree, Frank Hadden failed.
England beat Italy but with little conviction while Scotland's over-ambitious start gifted them 21 points inside 10 minutes and the match on a plate.
Jenkins said: ``The Italians are raging at the moment. There's so much energy and commitment in that team it's unbelievable.
``This week has been about learning the lessons of the other teams Italy have played and applying a structured game plan.
``Their win against Scotland has changed the dynamics of this game. They are a very difficult team to play against. They are quite formidable in a very limited sort of way. They have got a very effective pack, they scrummage very well and drive their lineout very well.
``If you look at the Twickenham game it was a frustrated England team. England weren't absolutely sure what was going on.
``There was an uncompromising pressure and England did not understand particularly how to deal with it.
``They frustrate you, they kick more than any other team in the Six Nations and have got a blitz defence that brought them three tries against Scotland.
``We have taken a view about the way we want to play against them. We have got to go there and kill them off.
``France got a very good start in their win over Italy and got their scores in early, in the first 20 or 30 minutes.
``But if you try to play too much too early, as Scotland did, you're threatening disaster.
``It's a big task for us but we have got a robust game plan to deal with the Italians.''