‘Wales are lucky that I have a supportive wife’
Stephen Jones promises he is bedding in quickly after replacing coach Rob Howley at 11th hour ‘It was a bit of a shock. And it’s been manic if I’m honest’
Jones arrived only a week ago, with his influence on early tactics limited as a result. Dan Biggar and Jonathan Davies, the two senior backs, played a major role in the planning to face Georgia, when Wales raced into a 29-0 half-time lead having scored four tries.
But Jones has certainly been a welcome presence in camp. Wing Josh Adams, one of the six Wales tryscorers, described the arrival of Jones as seamless.
“Obviously, there is a wonderful foundation in place. There are a lot of good things in the library already,” Jones adds, referring to the work done by Howley. The pair have not spoken since he was sent home for an alleged breach of betting regulations.
“I have worked with a number of the players and management before. The senior players were excellent – they took the helm and took the lead – which was great.
“I was happy [with the Georgia performance]. I thought some of the running lines were good, our ball movement was decent. But I would say the good thing for us is there is plenty to work on, which is the exciting part.
“Gats [head coach Warren Gatland] has been excellent and said I can evolve things slowly, but obviously I am conscious there is going to be limited grass time, but where I am fortunate is that there are so many good things in place.”
Tempting as it must have been to start implementing the new strategies, Jones has resisted them.
“Definitely not. We have caught up as a management group, Wayne [Pivac], myself, Byron [Hayward] and Jonathan [Humphreys]. We have had discussions about certain things but what’s been fascinating, and wonderful for me and hugely beneficial, is that I’ve been in this environment and learnt so much, so it will make the transition a lot easier.”
Wales will certainly need all hands to the pump if they are to see off Australia on Sunday at Tokyo Stadium, the standout fixture in the tournament’s second week.
Only last November did Wales finally end their hoodoo against the Wallabies, ending a run of 13 straight defeats dating back to 2008, a victory that Jones actually played in himself, scoring 11 points. That result will do wonders for confidence this week.
“It’s fantastic, isn’t it? Last time out, Wales were successful against Australia. It will be a massive occasion and it’s the one as players and coaches that you love, big sporting moments.
“Australia have lots of talented players. But I look at it from our perspective and our boys will be looking forward to that challenge of going up against those boys. We have got some wonderful players regarding skill-sets, athletic ability, work rate off the ball. It’s exciting from our end.”
The school-run duties will have to wait for a few weeks. Perhaps even until November, after the World Cup final, providing Wales find a way past Australia. “We have some things to evolve quickly and improve, which is great and that’s exciting part,” admits Jones. There is more to come.
Fitting right in: Stephen Jones (left) believes his familiarity with the players and Warren Gatland’s management team has helped