Wales 16-9 France, Six Nations
Jones hails influence of young guns
March 18, 2012
Ryan Jones poses with his fellow triple Grand Slam winners Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones © Getty Images
Triple Grand Slam winner Ryan Jones has heaped praise on Wales' thrilling young generation for playing a major role in securing the Six Nations title and Grand Slam.
Wales began their final game against France with seven players aged 24 or younger in the starting line-up and former captain Jones, who joins Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones, Gareth Edwards, Gerald Davies and JPR Williams in completing post-war Grand Slam hat-tricks, believes their contribution cannot be understated.
"We are a team that plays for 80 minutes - the Ireland and England games epitomised that," the Ospreys back-row forward said. "This is about a group of guys growing. We have a lot of young guys in key positions who need experiences to grow, and you draw on those experiences.
"For a relatively young and inexperienced squad, they have brought a wealth and depth of experience and composure during this Six Nations. It is up to guys like me who aren't first choice at the moment to keep pushing the youngsters. When you have got experience, you have got a duty of care as well.
"They are good kids, and anything you can do to help them and help them develop and allow them to bring out the best for themselves - and likewise for the team - is rightly important."
The Wales players now head back to their regional teams before meeting up again in late May for their June 2 appointment with the Barbarians and then a three-Test tour of Australia. "You have got to reflect on this, enjoy the moment," Jones added. "The next time we come together as a squad will be for the Barbarians game in June, and then the summer tour. That is the next challenge.
"There is a lot of rugby to be played I say this all the time - a lot can happen between now and then with regards form, selection and injuries. That is why it is important to celebrate what this group has achieved. We will then move on and try to build on it.
"What has been superb is that everyone who has pulled on the red jersey has stepped up to the mark and performed. It has really been a squad Grand Slam, if you like. Even though we have had a pretty settled team, there have been boys drafted in and out, and what guys have contributed in and around the squad as well has been superb. They deserve the credit as well." Whether Wales captain Sam Warburton makes the Australia trip is unclear at this stage as he prepared for scans on the shoulder injury that forced him off against France.
"To be honest, my body has been creaking ever since the World Cup," Warburton said. "There is the Australian tour, which would be good, but I am not sure what is going to happen regarding myself now."
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