Jones jumps at chance to rewrite history

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The Independent Online

Alun-Wyn Jones is working towards a degree in law, and his description of the most infamous incident in Wales's long history of matches against New Zealand would sit well in a courtroom. "Manipulation of the line-out rules," Jones said of the notorious dives by the All Blacks Andy Haden and Frank Oliver 30 years and five days ago, and it lacked only the "m'lud".

Then again, when asked if he had ever seen it on TV, the Ospreys lock put it more succinctly: "It's the one with the big cheat, isn't it?"

New Zealand have enjoyed 19 straight wins since Wales's last success in 1953, and still the hottest feelings are aroused over the 1978 meeting on Armistice Day at the old National Stadium: 13-12 to the tourists and settled by Brian McKechnie's late penalty goal.

Jones (pictured) wasn't alive then, and has no interest in muck-raking or even ruck-making before Wales try to lay the bogey in Cardiff next Saturday. Nevertheless, it was a late line-out which went wrong and cost Wales a possible victory over South Africa only last weekend. History repeating itself?

"There was an obvious error against South Africa," Jones said of the ball flying over his head, not to mention his first-half pass to Ryan Jones when he might have gone for a try himself. "I've been kicking myself all week about that pass. But there is nothing to correct in the line-out because we know what went wrong." The injured Osprey Jonathan Thomas has been absent as Wales's line-out leader but Jones said it was a shared failing. "We take it on our shoulders as a group."

If Geoff Wheel had kept his arm off Haden's shoulder in 1978, with Wales leading 12-10, Haden and Oliver and their theatrical leaps would surely have been exposed to the English referee, Roger Quittenton. The All Black pair admitted years later that they had chewed over the dastardly tactic with Graham Mourie, thecaptain, beforehand.

"I've seen it on TV and I'd like to see it again – and consult the video referee," Jones said. "Whoever did that was very streetwise and it worked. That was rugby in those days, and hopefully we won't see any of that. Unless we do and it's on our side."

There is a touch of levity there, but Jones admitted Wales's 2008 vintage "lost their composure and let it slip" against the Springboks. "There's always lessons to learn," he said, "but sport, and rugby itself, moves on from games in the past. It's moved on from the last time we played the All Blacks and that was two autumns ago."

That was also Jones's only first-hand experience: 20 minutes or so as a novice substitute when New Zealand won 45-10 in Cardiff. Unused on the bench in Friday's 34-13 defeat of Canada, he now has 24 caps and is a first choice in the pack.

"We're probably a better- conditioned side now [than in 2006], which hopefully means we can compete longer and harder. We're also used to three or four minutes more of ball-in-play time.

"A stat we've looked at is that the All Blacks' outside-halves kick 53 per cent of the ball," he added. "That's a lot of ball in hand kicked away to get field position, and we have worked hard on a better defence and better kick returns.

"We know this is a massive opportunity to make history."

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