Bring back Lee Byrne, says former Ospreys coach Lyn Jones
FRANCE v WALES (Saturday)
WALES boss Rob Howley has been urged to give Lee Byrne the chance to shine in the land where he plies his trade.
Former Ospreys coach Lyn Jones believes the full-back is the man to spark Wales’ Six Nations campaign when they take on France in Paris on Saturday evening.
Byrne is a key figure in the Clermont Auvergne side that are favourites for the Heineken Cup, slotting in among a raft of stellar names for the French giants.
Yet the 32-year-old has not played for his country since the 2011 World Cup, where he was a bit-part player while Leigh Halfpenny cemented himself at 15.
However, the Wales back three has failed to spark in an eight-Test losing streak, especially in the disastrous first half against Ireland last weekend.
And with wing Alex Cuthbert out of sorts, Jones believes that the time is right to shift Halfpenny back to the wing and recall the 46-times capped full-back from Bridgend.
“Rob Howley’s got some tough calls and he might choose to go with the same team, give them confidence and the chance to hit back,” said the London Welsh boss.
“Leigh Halfpenny’s got to play because of his goalkicking but I would certainly find a place for Lee Byrne in the side.
“He is a little bit more of an attacking threat out wide and an experienced campaigner who hits some nice angles from full-back, so that’s one change I would certainly make.”
Wales have not won since beating the Barbarians last summer but it’s not ending an eight-game losing streak that concerns Jones, it’s avoiding the pitfalls that led to Ireland running riot for 45 minutes.
“France will obviously be hurting from their defeat in Italy while I actually think it’s the type of performance that matters for Wales,” said the ex-flanker, who won five caps in the 1990s.
“Despite the bad run, it’s not so much the loss or victory on Saturday for me, because if things don’t go according to plan this time it could be a rout, then panic buttons will definitely get hit.
“There was a lot of good in the second half of Wales’ game against Ireland and they need to build on that.”