Wales captain has his eyes opened

Wales captain Stephen Jones has admitted to being shocked by the criticism levelled at him and his team following the 21-9 Six Nations defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield, but he now has his eyes open aout being back in Wales.


Head coach Gareth Jenkins and forwards specialist Robin McBryde also came under scrutiny after Wales crumbled to their fifth defeat in eight Tests.


But the spotlight fell squarely on Jones’ shoulders as captain and fly-half of a team which has lost to Ireland and Scotland this campaign and failed to score a try in the process.


Former Wales international Mike Hall called for Jones to be relieved of the captaincy while a fans’ poll suggested he should be axed from the team altogether for this weekend’s trip to Paris.


But Jones was in defiant mood and insisted Wales have the quality and pride to turn around their ailing fortunes against defending champions France on Saturday.


He said: “The criticism is frustrating from a personal aspect and from a team perspective.


“I was out of Wales for two years (playing for French side Clermont Auvergne) and you sometimes forget how much rugby is in the spotlight here. It has been a bit of an eye-opener to be honest.


“People have written a lot of things and said a lot of things and they are entitled to their opinion but from my end of things all I can do is concentrate on my rugby.


“We realise there is a huge responsibility that goes with playing for Wales and you have to live up to that responsibility.


“We have a tough challenge now against France and we have got to make Welsh rugby proud again.


“The Scotland game was particularly poor but we have a lot of talent in the side and if we play to our potential we will score tries.”


A Western Mail supporters’ poll concluded that James Hook should play at fly-half with Gavin Henson starting at inside centre, even though he has not played a game of rugby since early January.


Jenkins insisted Jones is handling the pressure and backed him as the right man to lead Wales in search of victory in Paris.


He said: “Stephen is a quality man. I haven’t had to keep his chin up. He is very realistic and he’s managing himself very well.”


Jenkins had expected to be in the line of fire after the desperate Murrayfield performance – but he labelled the criticism levelled at his players and coaching staff as both “staggering” and “distasteful”.


The Welsh Rugby Union were forced to defend Jenkins’ decision to allow the players a night out in Edinburgh after receiving complaints from angry supporters.


McBryde was singled out for blame after Wales were outfoxed and outmuscled in both the lineout and the scrum.


And even Jenkins’ final team selection yesterday sparked a nationwide debate after he decided to omit the in-form Colin Charvis from the squad.


Jenkins hit out angrily at certain sections of the Welsh media who he believes are deliberately trying to undermine his authority.


“I should expect the type of criticism I had last week when we played as poorly as we did,” he said.


“I understand the emotion. It’s not the first or last time I’ve been told I can’t coach so it’s not new to me!


“But it disappoints me – and it should disappoint Welsh people – when you see some of the back-page stuff on some of the newspapers.


“There were unrealistic opinions demanding James Hook plays at 10, demanding Gavin Henson plays 12.


“Gavin isn’t even playing rugby at the moment so that smacks of agenda bigger than personal criticism.”


But Jenkins insisted he would not allow the negatives vibes to infiltrate the camp as they crank up preparations for Saturday’s clash at the Stade de France.


“You can’t allow those pressures to infiltrate what you’re doing,” he added.


“You’re there to make the players aware of emotions outside your env

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