‘You have to graft… change is the most difficult thing’: Alun Wyn Jones backs Wayne Pivac in defiant message as Wales captain looks to prevent three defeats on the spin ahead of blockbuster showdown with England
- Wales travel to Twickenham next week to take on England in the Six Nations
- The 2019 champions have lost their last two games and tension is growing
- Under Warren Gatland, the Welsh side never lost three games on the bounce
- Alun Wyn Jones has given backing to new coach Wayne Pivac’s long term future
Wales’ oracle has spoken and delivered doses of reality to his nation.
Alun Wyn Jones does not talk much, but when he does it is worth listening to the totemic captain.
Only Richie McCaw has now played more Tests than the 34-year-old lock, and when it comes to Wales Jones is the best person to place new coach Wayne Pivac’s start into context.
Alun Wyn Jones has launched a staunch defence of new Wales head coach Wayne Pivac
The 2019 Six Nations champions have lost their last two games in a row in the competition
He has played in every Six Nations tournament since 2007 – the last season Wales lost three-in-a-row – has won three Grand Slams and finished in every other position in the table too, apart from last.
Having had the highs and lows, this is the skipper’s verdict of 2020 so far.
‘Test rugby is about winning and we’ve not done that,’ he says of the two defeats from three.
‘The performances in patches have been pleasing, but only to a point.
‘It is only pleasing when you win.
Wales head into next week’s blockbuster clash with England hoping to avoid a third defeat
‘You can be really reactionary and throw the baby out with the bathwater or you can step back and think there is change.
‘I said from the outset that change is no excuse and there are a large proportion of players still here.
‘It’s getting more of those performances to get results rather than stepping back and pointing fingers. That’s what we are trying to avoid.’
It could be seen as crushingly ironic that in the Warren Gatland era Welsh fans were desperate for their team to play more attacking rugby, and as soon as they try to under Pivac all they now want is victories.
‘People who asked for it in the past…you hear those perceptions and noises in the background,’ Jones adds.
‘As a group of players you cannot be reactionary.
Wales fans have grown concerned with new coach Pivac’s attacking style of play
‘We are trying to play heads-up and develop the style Wayne wants. That’s a positive but we are scrutinised, and rightly so, by the scoreboard.’
The one uncomfortable fact is that Gatland’s guys never lost three Six Nations games in a row. Defeat at Twickenham would mean that is the new reality for Wales.
While Jones is quick to tell critics to lay off Pivac, he is very keen to stem the tide and move on.
‘Warren is not here,’ comments Jones in his matter-of-fact style.
‘It’s uncharted territory and the pressure is on. It does not get any easier.
‘It is Wayne’s first one but Warren, while he had a first one, had 12 years to establish himself and everyone was used to what he was about and what he did.
‘From the coaches’ point of view, you cannot compare from 2019 to 2020.
‘You don’t want to think about losing a third one. It is difficult.
Under Warren Gatland’s pragmatic approach, Wales never lost three games consecutively
‘The comparison is a tough one, unfair from the coaching point but as players we do not want to go into that uncharted territory.’
There will be no Grand Slam this year, nor a championship title (unless coronavirus-related cancellations contrive a crazy turnaround) but Jones reminds his public it was not all ribbons, ticker-tape and trophies previously.
‘We won a championship in 2013 and a Slam last year but you forget the period before,’ he says of three fourth-placed finishes between 2009 and 2011 as well as coming third in 2014 and 2015 as well as fifth in 2017.
‘It’s dangerous to think anyone has a divine right to the championship.
‘You have to graft and change and it is difficult. Whatever line of work you’re in, change is the most difficult thing. It is no excuse.’
With Eddie Jones’ England up next at Twickenham – where the Australian has lost just twice in his reign since 2016 – things are hardly getting easier.
Jones says Pivac’s tenure has only just begun and he needs time to impose his ideas
But, as ever, the Welsh will be fired up trying to storm their neighbours’ fortress.
‘It’s funny, I don’t want it to sound like tales from the crypt but I’ve been involved in a few good ones and a few bad ones,’ says Jones who has won at Twickenham three times. Only Gareth Edwards and JPR Williams won on four occasions there.
‘A few World Cup warm-ups were bad. It’s the whole week: you know what is coming.
‘The nature of the beast means it alters a bit when you cross the Bridge. It is something to enjoy.
‘England are putting the pieces together to be the complete team they showed they were in the World Cup. They are trying to get back to that.
‘It is pretty rudimentary, not the way they play but in the way they impose themselves.’
Alun Wyn Jones has no trouble imposing himself. He knows it is time to step up.
The messages from the oracle should not be disregarded.
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