Jones times his recovery perfectly to lay injury jinx to rest


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The Independent Online

Ryan Jones has suffered more than his fare share of injustice with injuries but, for once, his body's sense of timing has worked for the good of Wales. The 30-year-old former captain is fit to make his World Cup debut against Namibia on Monday, breaking a jinx that has blighted an otherwise glittering career.

Jones, a British Lion in 2005 between two Grand Slams, was left emotionally scarred at missing the World Cup two years later following shoulder surgery. He is still reluctant to talk in depth about it.

In 2009 the curse struck again when a head injury, suffered with Wales, was not fully diagnosed and he was duly sent back home by the Lions with his feet barely on South African soil. So the Ospreys back row could be forgiven for feeling an impending sense of doom when a calf strain flared up last month ahead of the World Cup.

But having missed Wales' warm-up schedule as well as their opening two games in New Zealand, Jones makes a timely return in New Plymouth to soften the significant blow of losing the outstanding Dan Lydiate for the immediate future.

Having retained a team in successive games for the first time in his reign, Warren Gatland has made 11 changes against the Pool D whipping boys, having mixed and matched a blend of the vastly experienced and those still wet behind the ears at Stadium Taranaki.

Jones is among six players appearing for the first time at a World Cup, including 21-year-old Tavis Knoyle and the even younger Scott Williams, who was still an amateur with Whitland just two years ago.

Yet Wales also recall 230 caps of experience in Jones, Gethin Jenkins and Stephen Jones, who will become the most decorated Wales player on his 101st appearance, while Jamie Roberts, Shane Williams and Adam Jones are rested. Lee Byrne, another to miss out in 2007, returns for the injured James Hook.

Gatland said: "On the back of two intensely physical matches, we have made changes. We know Namibia will be hurting after their [87-0] loss to South Africa but we need to take that next step towards qualification from this incredibly tough group."

Wales: L Byrne; L Halfpenny, J Davies, S Williams, A Brew; S Jones, T Knoyle; G Jenkins, L Burns, C Mitchell, B Davies, A W Jones, R Jones, T Faletau, S Warburton (capt). Replacements K Owens, R Bevington, L Charteris, A Powell, L Williams, R Preistland, G North.