Lions tour: Pack mentality shows scrum still has big role

Adam Jones is smarting from criticism of the Welsh forwards. Soon he can prove his point on a Lions tour

It has been a week for the Welsh to prove the adage that history is written by the winners. "Feel free to ask me about the scrum comments made by Graham Rowntree and Scott Johnson," said Adam Jones, the Wales tighthead prop, with a wicked baritone chuckle. "I'd quite happily give you an opinion on them." The time when he will join forces with Rowntree, England's forwards coach, under the banner of the British & Irish Lions is nigh – but not just yet.

"As much as I appreciate that as a coach you have to back your boys I was surprised England came out and criticised the referee so much," Jones said, referring to the midweek barbs aimed by Rowntree and his England boss, Stuart Lancaster, at Steve Walsh's handling of the scrum and breakdown in Wales's 30-3 thrashing of their team in the Six Nations' Championship decider in Cardiff. "I was surprised [to hear it] from 'Wig' [Rowntree]. We've always got on – when we played against each other and when he was a coach with the 2009 Lions. It's frustrating when Wales have done well, but it's as if people don't want to see us do well and just want to think of any excuse."

Jones was even more unimpressed with Johnson, the interim Scotland coach. "He said we were cheating in the scrum at Murrayfield. But there's three calls – crouch, touch, set – and if you go before 'set' you're cheating the engagement and it was blatantly obvious that's what Scotland were doing."

What these verbal rucks emphasise is the continuing central role of the scrum – albeit frustratingly in the concession of penalties, as England suffered in bucketloads in Cardiff against Jones, Richard Hibbard, Gethin Jenkins and friends. Rowntree wasted no time getting it off his chest at the post-match dinner, knowing that in Test terms the Australians are next, and Jones is a dead cert to be among the Lions' front-row resources.

"Wig came over and called me a very rude name but it was all in good humour and we had a pint together," said Jones. "I like to think I'm very much like him. I'm an old-school type of player, rather than – as you can see – one of these athletes." And it is true Jones used to play overweight and famously was substituted in internationals after half an hour.

It is even possible to underestimate his talents now, but review the 73 minutes he played against England before a Millennium Stadium standing ovation, and look beyond the curls flopping over his eyes, the mainsail pair of shorts and the comical gurning as he catches his breath standing behind a goal-kicker.

Count instead the incessant tackles around the fringes – not for Jones the TV-friendly "big hit" – and of course the scrummaging. Jones's dismissive snort of a refusal to engage when Mako Vunipola replaced the embarrassed Joe Marler for England and struck a position low to the ground with barely a gap for Jones to put his head into was a sure sign that the Welshman, at 32 years of age and 12 caps short of his target of a century for Wales, is at his prime. "I shouldn't have someone trying to headbutt me into the scrum," the hairy hero of the hour said. "To be fair, the referee got that right, from the start."

Tightheads are highly prized, and it was "touch and go" whether Jones would accept a big offer to move to a French club early last year. He did not want to uproot his wife, Nicole, and daughter, Isla, who will be two in May. But it is likely to be different in summer 2014 when Jones's Ospreys contract is up, and he will consider a lucrative move from the region he was born into in Abercrave just after the golden rugby era of the 1970s.

For now Ospreys are aiming to win a fifth league title in nine years through the play-offs; in the same period, starting with the 2004-05 season, Wales have won the Six Nations four times. The gap is in between, with Europe passing all the Welsh regions by once again this season.

Jones's 2009 Lions trip ended with a dislocated shoulder in the second Test from a shocking challenge over a ruck by Bakkies Botha. In 2005 Jones had played the first of his three Grand Slams with Wales, but John Hayes, Matt Stevens and Julian White were picked for the Lions ahead of him.

"I would like to go again," Jones said, knowing that he is likely to do so alongside the more all-court Dan Cole of England. "The Australians have strengthened their scrum, with [tighthead] Ben Alexander a big part of that."

And does Jones think all 23 Welshmen from the England win – plus the injured Ryan Jones – deserve to be on the plane? "Flip back seven weeks and maybe eight of the boys would have been guaranteed," Jones said. "Now, [Justin] Tipuric has come through, Bigs [Dan Biggar] has had a good Six Nations…

"The Welsh pack in the last three games have put a pretty strong case to go out as a unit. But I don't think they'll pick it that way."

Ospreys play Cardiff Blues on 'Judgement Day' at the Millennium Stadium next Saturday, kick-off 5.15pm

Jones goes for Jones as captain

Warren Gatland, the Lions head coach, will name his tour squad on 30 April, and Adam Jones echoed former Wales wing Shane Williams and 1997 and 2001 Lions skipper Martin Johnson with a vote for Ospreys' Alun Wyn Jones as captain. "I haven't heard anything, but if they did name Alun Wyn captain I wouldn't be at all surprised," the prop said. "I don't think people realise how good he is. He is massive at 6ft 6in, 19 stone, but he has the work-rate of a blindside. He captains us with the Ospreys very well. I am sure that people from the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties might have something to say, but for me he's the best Welsh second- row we've ever had, and people should start realising that now."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea