A new maturity, but still with that feisty edge... why Alun Wyn is man to lead Wales
WAYNE Pivac believes Scarlets fans won’t be saying a final farewell to Liam Williams at the end of the season.
Speaking for the first time since the confirmation of the Wales fullback’s move to Saracens in a three-year deal, the region’s head coach said he was confident Williams would one day return to play in Llanelli.
The New Zealander also revealed he hasn’t been ‘actively talking’ to Leigh Halfpenny as a potential replacement and dismissed speculation linking the West Walians with experienced Argentinean Lucas Amorosino.
Pivac said: “We don’t like to lose any players but you understand when people are in different stages of their lives as well as their careers. We get bogged down with the rugby, don’t we, but people do have lives outside of rugby and we fully understand what Liam is doing.
“Personal reasons came into it.
“I know from my discussions with Liam, that side was very important, as it is to everybody. I totally understand his reasons.
“Liam has been honest and up front from day one. We have done our bit in putting a nice offer in front of him but we totally understand his reasons and support him. I am confident he will be back at the club in a few years’ time.”
Asked about the package the Scarlets, together with the Welsh Rugby Union, put together to try and keep 25-year-old Williams this side of the Severn, Pivac added: “It wasn’t about the money. All I can say is that the money was not the issue.”
Amid the speculation over Williams’s departure, the Scarlets have been widely linked with Halfpenny, who is set to reveal whether he is staying with Toulon or heading home to Wales. However, Halfpenny’s former side Cardiff Blues are the strong favourites to land the British Lion.
Pivac added: “For Liam, we had an amount of money we were able to put on the table and we did that. That is not saying we will do the same for anyone else.
“I haven’t spoken to Leigh. It is about looking at the squad we have got and what we want. In the past we have spoken to him, but we are not actively talking to Leigh.” certainly RICHIE Benaud famously said: “Captaincy is 90 per cent luck and 10 per cent skill. But don’t try it without that 10 per cent.”
Alun Wyn Jones, leader of the Ospreys for the past seven seasons, would doubtless agree.
The great captains make things happen rather than wait for fate’s rivers to start flowing their way.
Wales are set to pick a fresh leader for the Six Nations, with Sam Warburton having indicated to the national management that he is thinking of handing over the armband to focus on his own game.
Warburton has been a fine skipper, gracious in victory and dignified in defeat. After the low point in his sporting life, when he had been sent off for a tip tackle in the World Cup semifinal against France in 2011, he could not have been more diplomatic at the post-match press conference, impressing everyone in the room with his ability to put things in context.
Not so long ago he took a party of children on a tour of the Principality Stadium. “No cameras, just bags of class,” summed up one journalist of the way Warburton quietly conducted himself that day.
This is a man who has been a superb ambassador for Welsh rugby. But his perennial fight to stay injuryfree and just to hold his place in the Wales side mean he is surely wise to be considering stepping back into the ranks after 49 games as national skipper.
The job should now go to Jones, a man who is different in temperament from Warburton but who is also acutely aware of his leadership responsibilities and has been nothing short of an inspiration in the captaincy role at the Ospreys.
Cut to the Ospreys v Scarlets game in Swansea over the festive period.
The hosts had just been awarded a penalty try to take the lead early in the second half. While pretty much every other home player was high-fiving, back-slapping or simply savouring the score – or, in Dan Biggar’s case, getting involved in a robust disagreement with half the Scarlets’ pack – Jones sprinted back 70 metres in readiness for the next play.
Here was a captain telling his team and the crowd that there would be no resting on laurels. Effort would be intensified after the score. What an example to young players.
Ah, but does he have the personality to deal with the inevitable frustrations that a captain encounters when dealing with the media?
Let’s not overrate this one. True, he isn’t a man who suffers fools.
But he wouldn’t be the first national captain to have that personality trait. Gethin Jenkins is undoubtedly cut from similar cloth, so were Dick Moriarty, Paul Thorburn and Scott Gibbs before him.
And, anyway, Jones is intelligent enough to avoid serious pitfalls.
Those who know him well insist he has matured over the past year. Certainly, the way he conducted himself at his dad Tim’s funeral was eyeopening. It would have been difficult enough simply to have had a passive role at such an event, let alone get up and make a beautifully crafted speech that brought tears to the eyes of some of the 400 or so mourners inside that Mumbles church. Dignity never had a better day.
There is, then, a different side to Jones from the one he often reveals to the world.
He has a more empathetic dimension to his personality than is widely acknowledged. Young players at the Ospreys say how he is always on hand to offer advice, while he noticeably does the run-onto-the-pitch-withthe-mascot thing as well as anyone else.
A law graduate, he is also a bright man who is capable of applying his intellectual power to rugby.
Ian Botham said of probably the finest England cricket captain, Mike Brearley: “He spent his entire captaincy two steps ahead of the game, picking the minds of opposing batsmen and bowlers like a master safecracker and, after a while, his reputation for being able to out-think opponents became a weapon in itself.”
No one is suggesting Jones is quite at that level, but he has shown signs during his tenure at the Ospreys of being able to respond to a match as it unfolds, the hallmark of the great John Dawes during his distinguished reign as Wales skipper which included the swaggering Red Dragon Grand Slam of 1971.
Dawes had the ability to makes alterations to change the course of a game, seeing things that those around him missed. For a team, how significant an asset is that?
Warren Gatland once downplayed the importance of the captain’s role in the modern game, saying so much preparation takes place before Test matches nowadays that the skipper’s role involves little more than holding the mascot’s hand and introducing the players to some dignitary or other.