A new ma­tu­rity, but still with that feisty edge... why Alun Wyn is man to lead Wales

South Wales Echo - - SPORT -

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.

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