Alun Wyn Jones did not need to hear Warren Gatland's post-match rant at Twickenham on Saturday to believe his head was on the block. "I thought it would jeopardise my international career," said the Wales lock yesterday, referring to the ever-so influential sin-binning against England. Jones was finally able to sleep easy last night. Gatland has granted him a second chance against Scotland.
It had been a torrid few days, however, for the player renamed Alun "Bin" Jones. Not since Paul Ringer was dismissed against the same much-loved opponents three decades ago has a Welsh player been so vilified. But at least Ringer had a "blind Irish referee" to share the blame. Jones has been portrayed as being almost completely culpable. Even, it must be said, by his own coach.
Immediately following the 30-17 defeat, which saw Wales concede 17 points when they were down to 14 men, Gatland said in a BBC interview that Jones's numbskulled trip on Dylan Hartley "has probably cost us the game". The furious Kiwi went on to warn of selectorial repercussions.
Fortunately, Gatland stuck by him. Indeed, he admitted that, as Jones is not "a serial offender", "there was no serious discussion about dropping him". How Jones would have loved to know that on Saturday... and Sunday... and Monday. "No, I wasn't the best," he said.
Before yesterday, Jones had not fronted up to the press. He did not appear for an after-match interview and was again notable for his absence at the press gatherings over the following two days. The whisper was that he was annoyed with the coaches for his very public dressing-down. Quite the contrary, insisted Jones. "Shaun [Edwards] spoke to me at half-time, so I knew the severity of the viewpoint from the management, rightly so," said Jones. "I wasn't aware of it [Gatland's TV interview] until I received a few texts. But I realised Gats was just taking his honest line as usual. And I fully respect him for that."
Yet if Jones was ready for his coach's anger, the venom which poured forth from other quarters was certainly a shock. "I knew the aftermath was going to be a bit dour, but I didn't realise the extent until the Sunday morning," he said. "It was one of the most stupid, idiotic acts I have done. But it's amazing how one act can eclipse everything else. Straight afterwards, I had a bit of abuse on a few social networking sides; which is fine. It was an 'end of the world' situation, 'Apocalypse Now,' whatever you want to call it. I would like to thank everybody who has given me their support, and at the same time, thank everyone who has given me abuse. Because a lot of the time it is the abuse that spurs you on more."
Jones, himself, is at a loss to explain his moment of madness. "What was I thinking? Evidently not much at the time," he said. "It was just a reaction. Probably the worst reaction I've had on a rugby pitch." The 24-year-old's remorse is as obvious as it was predictable. Within the squad the trainee lawyer is known as a deep-thinker prone to beat himself up. "When we got back here on Saturday, the boys did take my belt and laces off me," he joked. "And I was on the first floor, so I was all right."
But that was then and this is now. The wisecracks have already started, with the captain, Ryan Jones, bringing the breakfast room to a giggling standstill yesterday when showing Alun Wyn the yellow lid off his Marmite jar. "It was good to get back into the environment straight away," said Jones, who revealed that in the next few days he will seek out the team's "mind doctor", Andy McCann. "Yeah, I did think I'd jeopardised my international career. But I've been given this second opportunity now. I've got this week to put a wrong right."
He will be joined on the Millennium Stadium pitch by 13 of the Twickenham XV. The wing Tom James has been dropped for Leigh Halfpenny, while Luke Charteris makes way in the second row for Jonathan Thomas. Gethin Jenkins is only deemed fit enough to sit on the bench, meaning Paul James remains at loosehead, while Gareth Cooper is considered fortunate to retain the No 9 jersey.
Wales v Scotland: Millennium teams
T Evans (Glasgow)
S Lamont (Scarlets)
R Lamont (Toulon)
Cusiter (Glasgow, c)
Replacements 16 Lawson (Glouc), 17 Jacobsen (Edin), 18 Gray (Glasgow), 19 MacDonald, 20 Blair, 21 Godman (all Edin), 22 M Evans (Glasgow).
Byrne (Ospreys) 15
Halfpenny (Blues) 14
Hook (Ospreys) 13
Roberts (Blues) 12
S Williams (Ospreys) 11
S Jones (Scarlets) 10
Cooper (Blues) 9
James (Ospreys) 1
G Williams (Blues) 2
A Jones (Ospreys) 3
J Thomas (Ospreys) 4
A W Jones (Ospreys) 5
Powell (Blues) 6
M Williams (Blues) 7
R Jones (Ospreys, c) 8
Replacements 16 Bennett (Ospreys), 17 Jenkins, 18 B Davies, 19 Warburton, 20 R Rees (all Blues), 21 Bishop (Ospreys), 22 Shanklin (Blues).
Referee: G Clancy (Ireland)
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