Jones - A chance for hopefuls
Wales captain says autumn games are "crucial" ahead of World Cup
Last Updated: September 21, 2010 6:37pm
Jones: autumn internationals a chance for hopefuls
Captain Ryan Jones says Wales hopefuls should make the most of the opportunity presented to them in this autumn's internationals if they are to gain inclusion in next year's World Cup squad.
Warren Gatland's side face South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji after a summer tour that saw them lose three straight Tests.
They lost 34-31 to a weakened South Africa side in June before suffering subsequent defeats to the All Blacks.
The tour was not without its pluses, though, as the likes of Newport Gwent Dragons back Will Harries, Scarlets scrum-half Tavis Knoyle and flanker Rob McCusker were handed first caps.
Meanwhile, Ospreys fly-half Dan Biggar, wing Tom Prydie and Scarlets centre Jonathan Davies were given the chance to continue their education at the highest level.
Ahead of their upcoming campaign, Jones has called upon the youngsters to step up and challenge the established stars in order to lay down a marker ahead of the global showpiece in 12 months' time.
Ospreys number eight Jones said: "We have 12 or 13 games before the World Cup and it is vital to build a strong squad of players.
"A number of first-choice players have suffered injuries over the past few seasons, but the beauty of the autumn games is that they have given players opportunities to come to the fore.
"That is crucial at this time. You're not going to win the World Cup with 15 players, there are going to be injuries, guys who miss out, so you've got to have the biggest possible playing base with players on top form and fully available for selection to allow us to be competitive within the squad going into these games."
Wales have already been hit by injuries ahead of the Tests. Lions centre Jamie Roberts has been ruled out after undergoing surgery on a wrist injury while prop Eifion Lewis-Roberts suffered a serious knee injury while playing for Sale last weekend.
Jones nevertheless thinks Wales can record their first wins against southern hemisphere opposition since they beat the Wallabies - who they play on November 6 - at the Millennium Stadium two years ago.
"It all starts with the best three nations in the world on our home patch with Fiji thrown in the mix just to spice things up a bit," he added.
"That's as tough as it comes. When you're embarking on a season like this, you need a yardstick to see where you are in the world and this series will certainly do that.
"With the new law interpretations, this campaign will be a good tester for us, a real eye-opener for everyone involved.
"We're going to give these Tests our all and hopefully come away with some results.
"After all, at our end of the business, we are results based and we will be judged on that alongside performances."
The new law directives apply to the breakdown and are designed to favour the attacking side, in the hope of producing a clinical high-tempo style of play.
Both Australia and the All Blacks appeared to adapt well to the changes during the recent Tri-Nations, with Wales assistant coach Neil Jenkins expecting those sides to prove the toughest opposition.
However, with both defending champions South Africa and Fiji - who knocked Wales out of the 2007 World Cup - in their pool this time around, Jenkins also stressed the importance of striking a psychological blow against those sides.
"Australia are very similar to the All Blacks at the moment," Jenkins said.
"There is very little kicking in their game, although they have Quade Cooper and Matt Giteau who are more than capable of controlling the game.
"They are a very tough side but a good challenge to start our autumn series.
"New Zealand are unbeaten this year, that says it all. They had a fairly quiet year last year but they have rediscovered their best form this season.
"They look lean and fit, there is a lot less kicking in their game now following the new law directives, they just keep hold of the ball until they get turned over.
"They're just a fantastic side and are going to be a tough side in the autumn.
"South Africa may have had a poor season by their standards, after winning the Tri Nations and beating the Lions last year, but we've only beaten them once in a hundred years so these are the type of games we'd like to do well in and win.
"Fiji are supposedly the easier game of the series but I'm sure they'll be nothing of the sort, Samoa showed us that at the same time last season.
"After losing to Fiji in the 2007 World Cup and with Fiji in our pool again at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, it would be important to get a win over them."