France v Wales, Six Nations, February 9
Jones urges Wales to 'have a crack'
February 7, 2013
Ryan Jones is set to captain Wales for a 30th time - extending his own record © PA Photos
Wales captain Ryan Jones has thrown down the gauntlet to his under-fire side ahead of their Six Nations clash with France on Saturday.
The defending champions enter the Stade de France showdown on a run of eight straight defeats with their latest reverse coming at the hands of Ireland last weekend. That latest loss also cost them the services of captain Sam Warburton who is sidelined with a shoulder injury that prompted Jones' return to the side and the captaincy.
Jones, one of three survivors from Wales' last victory over Les Bleus in Paris eight years ago, has shrugged off his side's recent woes and urged his team-mates to relish the challenge of a France side reeling from a shock defeat to Italy in their championship opener.
"Paris is a wonderful place to go - it's a great rugby arena. There is nothing quite like playing France in Paris. It's loud, it's noisy," said Jones who will be skippering his country for the 30th - extending his own record. "Something we have tried to instil in the guys this week is to look forward to it, be bold and let's have a real good crack.
"France are going to come out smarting, and it is going to be a pretty fierce opening, but you wouldn't expect anything else from France in Paris," Jones added. "It's about us maintaining belief, keeping our composure and a cool head and making sure we play the way we train. I've been in changing rooms like the one last week, and I've been in successful ones as well. One thing we've said this week is about picking your chin up and knuckling down."
Caretaker coach Rob Howley has revealed that Warburton would have retained his place in the side and the captaincy had he been fit but has full confidence that Jones can inspire great things from his side.
"Ryan has a wealth of experience," Howley said. "When he has been asked to be captain he has always led from the front, and I see no difference this weekend. Looking back at the (Ireland) game, from a coaches' and players' perspective the first-half performance wasn't good enough. It will not be replicated," Howley added. "Our discipline let us down. You need to have field position and possession, and we gave Ireland a lot of field position.
"But when you look at that first half, it is all fixable. It is about us being accurate, executing and being disciplined. It has been discussed with the players, and I know we will start better this weekend.
"We've talked about the plan we want to play and how we implement it. You can't give any side a foothold in a game through your own lack of discipline and unforced errors. We've lost eight games in a row, but the wonderful thing about the Six Nations is every game is taken in isolation, but you make sure you learn from the previous week.
"We feel that the intensity and our mindset in training this week has been a little bit sharper. When you lose, or play like we did in the first half last week, it certainly focuses the mind."
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