Walsh Dragons seek to stop rot against Samoa
CARDIFF (AFP) –
Ryan Jones will captain Wales for a record 29th time as the Six Nations Grand Slam champions bid to bounce back against Samoa at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Friday following a convincing loss to Argentina.
Wales were left shell-shocked by their 26-12 defeat by the Pumas in Cardiff last weekend, with the South Americans denying them a try while scoring two of their own.
Now Wales return to the Millennium desperate to redeem themselves, with interim head coach Rob Howley ringing the changes.
World Cup and Six Nations skipper Sam Warburton has been dropped to the bench with Jones set to surpass Ieuan Evans’s record for most Test appearances as Wales captain.
Jones, 31, missed the Pumas defeat due to a shoulder injury but has been passed fit and is looking forward to the challenge of rallying World Cup semi-finalists Wales.
“I love playing rugby for Wales and I was bitterly disappointed not to be involved last week,” he said. “I’d like to think I add value. I’ve been in situations like this several times over the last 10 years.
“Some of the guys are experienced in terms of caps but the majority came in a World Cup year. It’s been a successful 12 or 18 months and they possibly haven’t encountered this pressure and expectation.”
Elsewhere, Justin Tipuric starts ahead of Warburton, with Bradley Davies replacing Alun Wyn Jones, who has been ruled out of the autumn series with a shoulder injury, while Richard Hibbard and Paul James start in the front row.
Behind the scrum, Mike Phillips and Dan Biggar form a new half-back partnership and Ashley Beck joins Jamie Roberts, included despite suffering “mild concussion” against Argentina, in the centre.
Wales have a shaky history against Samoa, who claimed three consecutive wins over them during the 1990s.
But the Dragons overcame their bogey side in Hamilton, New Zealand, during last year’s World Cup.
And having lost their last four Tests against all opponents, Wales are in dire need of a win, if only to put a stop to talk they could suffer an autumn whitewash, with world champions New Zealand and Australia still to come.
“We need to get a good result under our belts, because these are three big, physical fixtures,” said Jones.
“Samoa are always tough, uncompromising and relentless. They are emotional, play with their hearts on their sleeve and it’s always a big opening 10 or 15 minutes (against them).
Samoa go into the encounter on the back of a comfortable 42-12 victory over Canada last Friday.
Wing wonder Robert Lilomaiava bagged four tries in that victory but will be on the bench in Cardiff with David Lemi returning to captain the team.
Forwards coach Pat Lam played in all three of Samoa’s wins over Wales in the 1990s, with two of those triumphs in Cardiff, and his colleagues have been seeking inspiration from the former flanker.
“I’ve spoken a lot to Pat about ’91 and ’99 and he said Samoa came to Cardiff not just hoping but believing they could win,” said backs coach Daryl Suasua.
“We have to show that same belief now — this is our chance. We know how strong Wales are and we won’t pay too much attention to last week’s performance against Argentina. That result didn’t do us any favours.”
Victory would enhance Samoa’s hopes of climbing to eighth in the world rankings and so achieving a more favourable position ahead of next month’s draw for the 2015 World Cup.
“For a country like Samoa that would be absolutely huge,” said Suasua. “That’s what is driving us on.”