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Player cull forecast in Wales as Pivac to swing axe ahead of World Cup

By PA
Wales' Alun Wyn Jones stands dejected with team-mates after the Guinness Six Nations match at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff. (Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)

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Alun Wyn Jones believes Wales boss Wayne Pivac will “draw a line in the sand” in terms of his World Cup selection planning.

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Wales ended a forgettable Guinness Six Nations campaign with a result few thought possible – losing at home to Italy.

It probably answered as many questions as it raised problems for Pivac, potentially giving him a clearer picture of contenders for France next year and those players he might no longer require.

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World champions South Africa are next up for Wales in July, with Tests scheduled in Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Cape Town.

And Jones, who won a record 150th Wales cap in the Italy defeat on his first appearance for more than four months after suffering a shoulder injury, said: “It will be interesting to see what happens in the summer.

“Wayne has been pretty candid up to this point with the amount of changes he has made.

“We suffered a bit of pain with results, but I am sure he is going to draw a line in the sand moving forward and select a squad he is going to build for the World Cup.

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“We are just over 18 months out (from the World Cup), so I assume he is going to shave that squad down to the people they want to work with.

“But I don’t think you can be too brazen in saying that because we are a small player-base anyway, so you always have to be conscious of that.”

A year after they won the Six Nations, Wales must reflect on a fifth-placed finish, losing four games and scoring just eight tries.

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Italy, meanwhile, ended a run of 16 successive defeats against them and toppled Wales for the first time since 2007.

Jones added: “It can definitely get better, can’t it. I won’t pull any punches on that.

“I think we have to rewind 12 months. There was this big thing about giving opportunities to players and getting the strength in depth which we haven’t had.

“The melting pot of players is larger. It is down to us then, or Wayne to get the squad and essentially put a better product on the park.

“I think it’s perceptions. Results promote chatter and opinion. The inevitable criticism that will come, it always does.

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“Had we won with a plethora of points, it would have been the other way and focused on the opposition. There is inevitably going to be that critique, but that’s what comes with playing professional rugby in Wales.

“We won a championship last year, but that seems to be forgotten pretty quickly. In the midst of a pandemic as well, with all those other things going on.

“The stuff that resonates for a player is when we were on for a Grand Slam, we were termed potentially the worst team ever to be on for a Grand Slam.

“Admittedly, we did not win it, but as a player group there is belief there, individually and collectively.”

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