The players in the Wales squad are no different to any others in rugby. We enjoy each other’s company, just as all the New Zealand players I know enjoy socialising on days off. It’s part and parcel of rugby, and something we never want to lose. But there were a couple of incidents last Sunday when six of us went out in Cardiff, the day after we beat England. And when the squad got back together to begin preparing to face France next Friday, the management left us in no doubt that they don’t want anything similar happening again. I was one of the six and although neither Mike Phillips nor I was rebuked by the Welsh Rugby Union, we and the other four apologised to the rest of the squad.
Mike and I went in to see Warren Gatland together and were given a good talking to. The issue wasn’t with the fact that we went out in our free time, though it may not have been the brightest idea to do so in the centre of Cardiff. The issue was that when we go out nothing should happen that brings a comeback to the camp. Gavin Henson was one of the group and we know he’s probably our most high-profile player. I was there and I’d say Gav got provoked a bit but it’s all behind us and the management have said the matter is closed.
Gavin, Shane Williams and Jamie Roberts are available to play against France after their various injuries, which is a great boost. Gav is a team-mate of mine at the Ospreys, and on his day he’s a world-class player, I truly believe that. We’ve seen before that when he bounces back from an injury he tends to have a big game sooner rather than later. But Jamie and Tom Shanklin have been playing well for Wales in the centres so we’ll see what happens with selection.
It’s a 9pm kick-off in Paris, and we’re going to train in the evenings at the Millennium Stadium this week to get ready for it. We have plenty of evening kick-offs in the Magners League, but this is a late one. On the morning of a match Alun-Wyn Jones and myself like to do a weights session. So we will probably stick to that and I’ll try to get some sleep in the middle of the day, but I expect I’ll be restless. I love the French crowds, and the ‘Marseillaise’ is the best anthem for getting you up for a game – apart from Wales’s, of course.
We’re busy analysing France and they’ll have seen how England lined up a big flanker, Joe Worsley, to tackle Jamie Roberts. I took that as a compliment. England were worried about what we had, even before the game. Maybe we tried to go through Worsley too much – it certainly came out on the video like that. When we knew he was there we tried to attack him. When it was the other way around we didn’t bother going there.
It was quite strange but the whole game was a bit backwards like that. We kicked more at the end of the game when we should have kicked at the start. In any case we won and, by the way, I’m glad we played England early doors. They’ll only get stronger as the Six Nations goes on. They could do a job out in Ireland and that would be good for us, with the Irish still to come in Cardiff.
France are a more settled side this year so we can look at what they’ve done so far, and get a fair idea of what they’re about. I think their coach [Marc Lièvremont] was getting a feel of the team he wanted, but he knows who he’s going to pick now and they should be stronger for it. I can’t wait.Reuse content