New Wales boss Wayne Pivac has underlined the importance of World Cup captain Alun Wyn Jones to his plans. The 34-year-old lock is unavailable for Pivac’s first match in charge – a Cardiff appointment with the Barbarians in 11 days’ time – due to a groin niggle, while he is also taking a six-week break following Wales’ World Cup campaign in Japan.
Jones is on course to become world rugby’s most-capped player next year, overtaking the 148-Test mark of New Zealand World Cup-winning skipper Richie McCaw that he currently stands just five games behind. “We are thinking of 2023 (the World Cup) and whether certain people will get there, but at the moment the leadership of Alun Wyn is very important to us,” Pivac said.
“He is not involved for the Barbarians game purely because of the recovery period he has and the niggly groin injury he has. He will be fine in another few weeks, and he’s very much in my plans. I’ve had several conversations with Alun Wyn, pre and post-World Cup, and he is a big part of our plans going forward at this stage.”
Pivac succeeds Warren Gatland in the Wales coaching hot-seat following his fellow New Zealander’s 12-year reign that included four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and two World Cup semi-final appearances. His first significant match at the helm will be a Six Nations opener against Italy on February 1, and he is relishing the challenge that awaits.
Asked about Gatland, Pivac added: “We’ve had some good conversations over a long period of time because obviously I’ve been doing the Scarlets role for five years, and over that time Warren has been the national coach. “So, there have been conversations over the years and Warren has done things a certain way, and I understand why he has done them.
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“We don’t always have the biggest pool of players to pick from, and you’ve got to look at what you believe your strengths are at a given time and play to your strengths. Warren’s done that and had some great results, and we are going to try and build on the platform he has left, and he has left a pretty good platform to launch from.”
Given Wales’ consistent displays under Gatland – and their status as reigning Six Nations champions – there will be immediate pressure on 57-year-old Pivac to deliver. But he is comfortable with that expectation, adding: “Remember, I was once a supporter in New Zealand of the All Blacks, and when they lost, Radio Sport would go crazy until the next time they played, and they won.
“Every world-class player was a chump, not a champ, and the coach would go. So I grew up in a pretty hostile environment where winning was everything, and I was in the police for a period of that time too, so I saw the real-life result of bad performances, a team not winning, and it had a knock-on effect into the community – I dealt with some of that at 3am on a Sunday.
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“I understand it, I know the reasons for it, and it goes with the territory. To be honest, that’s part of the excitement of it. You can make a difference to people’s lives for a period of time, albeit a couple of days or a week, or what it may be. It’s not something we will shy away from.
“The expectation is we will perform straight away, so that’s the challenge for us, seeing how quickly we get up to speed.”
– Press Association
WATCH: RugbyPass looks back on some of our favourite moments with the fans at the World Cup in Japan
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