Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Jones backed to shine for Wales

Matthew Rees
Matthew Rees

Rhodri Jones has received a ringing endorsement of his international potential as he prepares to make an eagerly-awaited Test debut.

The 21-year-old Scarlets prop is 6ft 3in tall and weighs almost 19 stone. He has played most of his formative professional rugby with the Scarlets at loosehead prop, but will win his first Wales cap as tighthead in Saturday's Millennium Stadium encounter against the Barbarians.

And hooker Matthew Rees, a Scarlets team-mate of Jones' and Wales skipper this weekend, has predicted a glittering future for a player who could end up succeeding Adam Jones in the red number three shirt: "He has definitely got potential to be a world-class tighthead as far as I am concerned, and I am looking forward to seeing him play."

Rees added: "For me, with his frame, he is an ideal tighthead.

"It is not going to come overnight, and the only way he is going to get better is by playing."

Caretaker coach Rob Howley, in temporary charge while Wales supremo Warren Gatland recovers from two fractured heels at his New Zealand home, will parade three new caps on Saturday.

Jones and Scarlets full-back Liam Williams are both handed first Test match appearances, together with Cardiff Blues wing Harry Robinson.

The trio have a combined age of just 60, only 24 years older than flanker Martyn Williams, who is among Wales' replacements and set to win his 100th cap, joining Welsh centurions Stephen Jones and Gareth Thomas.

Welsh rugby's current feelgood factor, generated by winning this season's RBS 6 Nations title with a Grand Slam just five months after reaching the World Cup semi-finals, is supported by an anticipated crowd of around 50,000.

"When you've won the Grand Slam and been in a World Cup semi-final, it would be pretty ridiculous to change things," Howley said. "It is business as normal, really. We feel that we have a squad that has been together for a long period of time and has the appetite to wear that national jersey."

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