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Jones eyes special times for Wales

Alun-Wyn Jones is relishing an opportunity to "start something special" during Wales' punishing autumn Test programme that will see them tackle the world's top three teams.

Australia are first up next Saturday, with New Zealand and then South Africa also featuring on a November schedule that should give Wales several key indicators of where they stand less than a year out from Rugby World Cup 2015.

The Wallabies are in Wales' World Cup pool - along with fourth autumn opponents Fiji - and second-row warrior Jones, who has won 80 caps and played in six British and Irish Lions Tests, understands more than most the intensity of what lies ahead.

And if Wales are to find winning momentum, then the history books will need rewriting.

Despite landing three RBS 6 Nations titles, two Grand Slams and reaching a World Cup semi-final during head coach Warren Gatland's six-year reign, they have lost nine successive Tests against Australia, not beaten New Zealand since 1953 and have to go back to 1999 for their solitary victory over South Africa.

"Success - that's the buzz," said Jones, who captained the Lions to a Test series-clinching win against Australia in Sydney last year.

"What you put in, you usually get out. If you are not good enough on the day, fine, but if you put in everything you have, you usually get a decent result.

"When you lose, it motivates you to go again. You feel down, but it is how you channel that, rather than dwelling on it. We are not in the business of dwelling on the past.

"When we played South Africa in the (2011) World Cup and we lost, I spoke to players and we were devastated.

"But we learned more by losing and going through to face Ireland and France than we would have had we coasted through. We may not have made it to the semi-final if we had not had that loss.

"It is obvious to say we were down and devastated after losing the second Test (by a 31-30 scoreline) to South Africa in the summer, but we turned the ship around after the first Test and came so close.

"We have another opportunity to start something special in November."

Jones, 29, is not in the prediction game, and he refuses to look too far ahead. Wales face the four autumn Tests, an RBS 6 Nations campaign and three warm-up internationals ahead of beginning their bid for World Cup glory against Uruguay in Cardiff next September.

He will be a pivotal part of Gatland's plans through his ability as a world-class forward and an outstanding leader alongside team captain Sam Warburton as he edges ever closer to a third World Cup and 100 caps.

"There is a lot of rugby to be played, a lot for us to work on and a lot of people to come in and out of the squad before we get there," Jones added.

"We are coming to the end of the beginning, which started in the summer (against South Africa) with a few key absentees.

"We performed where people thought we would in the first Test, and we probably surpassed ourselves in the second. It was disappointing to go so close and be so far.

"We can be pretty narrow-minded about the advantages of beating certain teams when we look at the bigger picture.

"A bugbear of mine is bragging rights in (Welsh) regional derbies when it would be a lot more worth to the regional game if we did something special in European rugby.

"The calibre of New Zealand, their strength in depth and the way they play, make them the benchmark that everyone is trying to get to. We are putting a lot of work in."

Jones, centre Jamie Roberts and prop Gethin Jenkins are likely to be the only starting line-up survivors from Wales' last win against Australia in 2008 when the countries clash again next weekend.

And while the Wallabies' preparations have been dominated by off-field issues surrounding full-back Kurtley Beale and Ewen McKenzie's resignation as coach, Jones knows what is coming.

"It is not the first time they have had off-field problems," Jones said.

"They lost to Argentina (last month) and should have beaten the All Blacks, if they are honest.

"As a group of players, I do not think what happened off the field will affect them too much. It never usually does. They always seem to be okay on the park, and they have a pretty good record over here against us.

"It is something we will not focus on - we will worry about the guys on the park."


From Belfast Telegraph