Ryan Jones has insisted that is not sulking at having been deposed as captain of the Wales team and being sat among the substitutes after Sam Warburton’s excellent displays since assuming the mantle.
The 30-year-old Jones instead said it was a pleasure to be part of a Welsh renaissance that has seen the team progress to Saturday’s World Cup semi-final against France thanks to a blend of attacking rugby and hard-nosed defence.
“We have moved on and it was a long time ago now,” Jones, who led Wales to their 2008 Six Nations Grand Slam, said of Warburton taking over the captaincy.
“Sam is a great kid who has done nothing but lead by example on and off the field,” Jones added.
“He is inspirational in the way he conducts himself on the field, the manner in which he has been playing.
“And likewise off the field. It has been a pleasure with him and age is just a number when you have someone like him, someone who commands such respect on the field.”
Warburton, Jones said, was “very receptive and he is full of ideas when you have a chat”.
“There is a role for players like myself who just try to facilitate others, helping him with his role and making sure he is comfortable,” explained Jones, who in 2005 appeared in three Tests for the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand.
“That means he doesn’t get trapped by the way he plays and it becomes a natural progression and he is able to excel the way he has been,” added the loose forward, capped 55 times by Wales.
Jones was an unused replacement in the 22-10 quarter-final victory over Ireland in Wellington last week, but stressed he was just happy to be involved in Wales’s World Cup adventure in New Zealand.
“It’s been a hell of a six weeks for me,” he said. “Three weeks ago I had my plane ticket booked (because of a nagging calf injury) and I was going home.
“I’m still here and I am thoroughly enjoying it and crikey, we’re in the semi-final of a World Cup. I’m trying to contribute and be a part of it as much as I can be.”
Looking ahead to the semi-final against France in Auckland, Jones said it was “not a question of stepping it up, it’s doing more of the same”.
“We’re not trying to re-invent the wheel.
“There was a lot of good in the game last week through one to 15 and this, along with individual performances, is what it takes to win the World Cup,” said Jones, who also provides second row cover..
“The set piece was excellent. The breakdown, I thought the boys were superb. All the stats were superb, which reflected on the end result.
“The boys are confident and there are a lot of guys in fine form which will benefit the team.
“It is highly competitive here, everyone gets along well and there is good balance across the squad, with positions, players, ages and experience. Everything seems to be working at the moment.”
The turning point, Jones argued, in Wales’s World Cup was their narrow 17-16 opening pool loss to defending champions South Africa.
“There was a realisation then that we are capable of beating these teams. It showed we are close and we took confidence in that,” he said.
“Confidence, in any form, in any competition, is momentum. It is all based on confidence and winning.”