Backs should not cop all of the blame, says Mark Jones
WALES backs coach Mark Jones insists that the finger of blame shouldn’t just be pointed at the misfiring three-quarters for the spluttering start to the Six Nations.
Ireland triumphed at the Millennium Stadium thanks to a dominant 45 minutes that ensured that, with the scoreboard reading 30-3, the game was done and dusted.
Wales papered over some cracks with a late fightback but the defence of the Six Nations crown got off to a shocker, leaving their pedestrian attack in the firing line.
Centres Jonathan Davies, who sent two balls flying into touch with shocking passes, and Jamie Roberts are copping plenty of flak, yet Jones insists they were victims of the team losing the battle of the collisions.
“We didn’t get over the gain line in the first half, that changed in the last half hour,” said the former winger.
“There was an issue with our forwards’ carries and not recycling the ball with speed – and sometimes not even recycling the ball at all.
“We had the same centres on in the second half and they were able to put width into the game. “It wouldn’t have been a fair decision to make changes at half-time based on the amount of possession the centres had had at that stage. You’d have been making a decision on the wrong area.
“There’s no doubt you can play different players in there, like a James Hook, who would be a far more comfortable ball player.
“But it comes back to what you believe and what you want to get out of your gameplan.”
Jones also believes that Wales need to drastically improve at the breakdown if they are to end their eight-Test losing streak in France this weekend.
The Irish used their reknowned choke tackle – where the ball carrier is held up – to prevent Wales building up a head of steam.
“It wasn’t a case that Ireland caught us out with the choke tackle. We were aware of it and we trained for it,” said Jones.
“Unfortunately, they executed the choke tackle better than we executed the prevention of it.
“In the second half I thought people like Ken Owens and Andrew Coombs had the type of footwork and body height when they were ball carrying that really made it difficult for Ireland to get that hold-up tackle going.
“Once we tidied that up our speed of ball was excellent in the second half. We just have to back ourselves to keep creating chances. We have the players.”