‘We won’t shy away from the pressure’: Captain Alun Wyn Jones calls on Wales to end dismal losing streak by beating Ireland in Dublin
- Wales begin their Autumn Nations Cup campaign against Ireland on Friday night
- Captain Jones expects a reaction in Dublin after the recent defeat by Scotland
- They boast plenty of experience with 658 caps-worth of nous in their line-up
Wales might have just exited lockdown but their rugby team are still desperate for a fire-breaker to rid themselves of recent ills.
While Friday’s match could be viewed as just the start of a contrived tournament that may help to develop future stars it is vitally important Wales perform in Dublin.
Having suffered five defeats in a row during the Autumn Nations Cup they need to remember who they are, find an identity and win games – fast.
Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones expects a reaction in Dublin after the recent defeat by Scotland
‘I’d like to think there would be a reaction,’ said Alun Wyn Jones.
‘We won’t shy away from the pressure.’
At tight-head prop Wales have a man used to winning. Tomas Francis wins a 50th cap to add to his Premiership and European Cup titles with Exeter Chiefs.
He hopes recent club experiences can lift his country.
Wales prop Tomas Francis has enjoy the winning habit with Exeter Chiefs this season
‘Winning is a habit, that’s what we’ve learnt from Exeter,’ he said.
‘The two finals we won were probably the two worst games we played all year but we had that winning mentality.
‘Speaking to Foxy (Jonathan Davies) when they won the 2012 Grand Slam Wales then went on an eight-game losing streak, started the 2013 Six Nations losing and then went on to win it, so for us it’s about a momentum shift.’
It is still early in the Pivac era. It might be a year since he took charge, but virus disruptions means he has only had six Tests.
He seems caught between two stalls – one minute talking up developing players and a style for 2023, the next sacking his defence coach for bad performances.
With Byron Hayward gone, and Wales nine months away from their last victory it is time for a vastly experienced squad to step up to stop the sound of chins wagging around them. One win and it all changes.
Wales can count on plenty of experience with the likes of fly-half Dan Biggar (above)
Between captain Jones, Jonathan Davies, Dan Biggar, Justin Tipuric, Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams, Taulupe Faletau, Gareth Davies and Francis are 658 caps-worth of nous, the spine of a team that won a Six Nations Grand Slam last year, peaked at No 1 in the world and made a World Cup semi-final.
For years they have dragged Wales out of holes – time to do it again.
On that note Francis – who returns to the scene of his first cap in 2015, the last time Wales won in Dublin – added: ‘You always want to prove people wrong. We’re a better team than the results say and we’ve got a chance to put it right. We’ve got to earn that respect back.
‘Scotland wasn’t good enough, we know that. We want to put it right for ourselves.’
Wales – to their credit – are not looking for excuses. They know the only way to appease a demanding public is to win.
They will want to rediscover that which at times makes them unbeatable – tactical cleverness, an unrelenting desire, over-my-dead-body aggression and that intangible quality Warren Gatland used to find in them on home nation occasions such as this where it looked from afar they would rather expire than let each other down.
‘It’s always on the players,’ added captain Jones.
‘We haven’t been far away, but it feels a lot further when you come so close.’
Ireland have been unconvincing recently too. Tonight they celebrate old and new with New Zealand-born wing James Lowe’s first cap and Johnny Sexton’s 100th international.
There are more Leinster men playing than in any Irish team since 1981; Leinster always beat the Welsh regions. So first home defeat to Wales in five years would sting, making this a potentially fiery battle.
But it is the Welsh who most need to reach for extinguishers at the Aviva to douse building flames.
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