Jones: You’ve still got to stand up to the French rough stuff
GONE are the days when you took your life into your own hands when you played France, but Wales prop Adam Jones says you still need to be made of stern stuff to survive a trip to Paris.
In their notorious heyday, the French pack of the 1970s were scarier than X-rated video nasties.
Some of the more memorable characters included ferocious 6ft 4in prop and former heavyweight boxing champion Gérard Cholley and lock Alain Estève, better known as the ‘Beast of Béziers’ to his friends.
Legend has it that ex- paratrooper Cholley’s rugby career started when he was the last man standing in a bar room brawl in his hometown of Castres.
A senior official from the club was so impressed he asked him if he fancied a game on Saturday, Cholley going on to famously knock out four Scotland players during France’s 1977 Grand Slam campaign.
And even Gwent rugby legend Bobby Windsor, no shrinking violet himself, admits to being a little scared of the hard as nails Estève.
The story goes that after being continually punch-ed throughout Wales’ famous 25-10 away win over France in 1975, the Pontypool hooker thought he’d got his own back when he launched a haymaker that would have felled an elephant.
To his horror, Estève is supposed to have smiled and winked at him as if to say, ‘Is that the best you’ve got Bobby?’ The ultra violence of yesteryear is now in the past thanks to dozens of television camera and the attentions of a citing commissioner to stamp it out, pardon the pun.
But tighthead Jones, who wins his 85th cap tomorrow, stressed that although the threat may have changed these days, you still need to be able to stand up to a hugely physical French eight.
“It’s a totally different game now – years ago you’d go over there and you’d have to kick someone in the face,” he said.
“You’ve got to be aggressive and front up physically but you’re not going to smack someone, gouge someone or bag-snatch someone like some might have done in the past.
“You’ve got to be physical because that’s what they’ll bring.”
Jones, 31, does however have some rather bittersweet memories of playing in Estève’s, again pardon the pun, old stamping ground.
He said: “I went to Béziers with Neath. It was a nice ground but there were a lot knees and fingers going where they shouldn’t have been.
“I was about 20 years old. It was a good experience. I think I came on as a substitute and it was my first experience of free wine in an after-match marquee.
“Someone grabbed hold of my hair but that sort of stuff doesn’t happen anymore – there’s cameras everywhere.”
Jones thinks Wales have found their own hard man in hooker Richard Hibbard who will win his 20th cap after overcoming a shoulder injury.
“He’s got the ideal size and skills for a hooker," Jones.
“He’s a big ball-carrier, good at the set-piece and he’s horrible too. He’s got it all.”