Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Wales keep faith with Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones
Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones has kept his Wales place despite losing the captaincy for Saturday's Millennium Stadium clash against New Zealand.

Ospreys forward Jones skippered Wales in their shambolic 16-16 draw with Fiji last week, conceding an injury-time penalty that cost his team victory and then being told by head coach Warren Gatland that Matthew Rees would reclaim leadership duties against the All Blacks.

Jones described it as "the worst 20 minutes" of his rugby career, but Gatland - who faced a chorus of media criticism from those who felt he had made Jones a scapegoat - has retained the 29-year-old.

He moves from blindside flanker to number eight instead of Jonathan Thomas, with Dan Lydiate wearing the number six shirt and fit-again Sam Warburton preferred to his Cardiff Blues colleague Martyn Williams at openside.

Both Warburton and prop Gethin Jenkins have recovered from calf muscle injuries that ruled them out of the South Africa and Fiji games earlier this month, while there is a surprise recall for powerful Blues wing Tom James.

James, who was not included in Gatland's original autumn Test squad, is parachuted straight into the team after being preferred to Aled Brew, Chris Czekaj, Will Harries and Tom Prydie to replace dislocated shoulder victim Shane Williams.

There are nine changes and two back-row positional switches from the Fiji match, with returning players including centre Tom Shanklin, half-backs Stephen Jones and Mike Phillips, locks Bradley Davies and Alun-Wyn Jones, plus hooker Rees, who captained Wales in recent weeks against Australia and South Africa.

Both Thomas and Martyn Williams are on the bench, where Gatland has opted for five forwards and just two backs in scrum-half Richie Rees and centre Andrew Bishop.

Wales team to play New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday: L Byrne (Ospreys); G North (Scarlets), T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues), J Hook (Ospreys), T James (Cardiff Blues); S Jones (Scarlets), M Phillips (Ospreys); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), M Rees (Scarlets, capt), A Jones (Ospreys), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), A-W Jones (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues), R Jones (Ospreys).

Replacements: H Bennett (Ospreys), P James (Ospreys), J Thomas (Ospreys), A Powell (Wasps), M Williams (Cardiff Blues), R Rees (Cardiff Blues), A Bishop (Ospreys).

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