Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Jones not an option for Gatland

Wales boss Warren Gatland says he will not be "going on bended knees" to celebrated prop Adam Jones following his retirement from Test rugby.

Jones, who has won 95 Wales caps and played in five Tests for the British and Irish Lions, made his surprise announcement earlier this season.

Wales are without current first-choice props Gethin Jenkins and Samson Lee through injury for their final RBS 6 Nations game against Italy in Rome on Saturday, while experienced Bath loosehead Paul James is also injured.

Rob Evans and Aaron Jarvis will start in Rome, with Rhys Gill and Scott Andrews providing prop cover on the bench, while uncapped Exeter tighthead Tomas Francis is also part of Wales' Six Nations squad.

Many pundits, though, believe 34-year-old Jones could still do a job for Wales, especially in a World Cup year.

"I was surprised at the timing of his (retirement) announcement," Gatland said.

"He was not out of our thoughts. We had played a little bit of phone tag, leaving messages and going backwards and forwards.

"If he has changed his mind and wants to get on the phone and say I made a rash decision, retired too early and want to be part of the World Cup squad, that is a different conversation.

"At the moment, I will not be going on bended knees ringing him saying 'please come back we really desperately need you'. For us, it is about dealing with the other players.

"The players we have got at the moment have all the potential. We need to continue to build some more depth.

"We have to select a squad of 31 (for the World Cup), so that is nine front-rowers and probably a 17-14 or 18-13 split (forwards and backs).

"I have not thought that far ahead, and that will happen after this weekend, planning and preparation. We will name a pre-World Cup squad of 45 that will be in training, and we will start narrowing that down closer to the World Cup.

"The exciting thing about the World Cup is the time we will have together to do the in-depth coaching and the stuff we do not have the opportunity to do in the Six Nations.

"We feel the time we have together will make a massive difference in an incredibly tough group which has the fourth, fifth and sixth-ranked teams (England, Wales and Australia) in the world. That makes it pretty hard."

Wales launched their current Six Nations campaign at home against England - it will be Ireland next year, with England being their second opponents in 2017 - and Gatland offered some strong thoughts on the tournament fixture scheduling.

"The last 15 years have been very tough on England and Wales in terms of the draw we have both received. Who is making that draw?" he added.

"You look at one team who has had a pretty easy run in the last 10 or 15 years, and also for the next two or three years.

"Whether that is the broadcasters having an influence, I don't know.

"It is a tough tournament to win. Win your first game, and you get a bit of momentum and put yourself in contention. I don't know if there should be a rota.

"I don't make the draw. I have just looked at the last 10 or 15 years and seen who has played who first in the competition. Some teams have obviously had easier starts on a regular basis (than others)."

And reflecting on this season's Six Nations, Gatland said: "We look back and sort of kick ourselves, because we could potentially be playing for a Grand Slam.

"The unfortunate thing for us is that sometimes as a team we have been slow starters.

"We said after the disappointment of the first game (Wales lost 21-16 at home to England) that it was about getting back on the horse, building some momentum and putting ourselves in contention. We have done that."


From Belfast Telegraph