'Sin' Jones gets chance to atone
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 his costly sin-binning against England. Gatland, though, has granted him a second chance against Scotland.
It had been a torrid few days for the player renamed Alun 'Bin' Jones. Wales conceded 17 points in the 10 minutes that he was off the field for a foolish trip on Dylan Hartley, having looked the more likely winners before his indiscretion; they went on to lose the game 30-17
Immediately afterwards, Gatland fumed on TV that Jones' trip "probably cost us the game". The furious Kiwi went on to warn of selectorial repercussions.
Fortunately for Jones, Gatland stuck by the Lions second-rower. 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 admitted.
Before yesterday, Jones had not fronted up to the press. He did not appear for a post-match interview and was again notable for absence at the press gatherings in the next 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. 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 his namesake the yellow lid of a 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. 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 prop, while Gareth Cooper is considered fortunate to retain the No 9 jersey.
Meanwhile, Chris Paterson said he is targeting far more than 100 caps as he prepares to make yet another bit of history in a Scotland jersey.
Already his country's record points scorer, Paterson will become the first Scot to play in a century of Tests on Saturday. The modest 31-year-old is eager for the occasion not to become the Chris Paterson show and winced on learning that a post-match function had been arranged in his honour.
"In many ways, it is just another cap, it's another number," said the full-back. "I'm hugely proud of achieving it. Since I got into the 90s, I thought, 'There's a chance here'. But right up until this morning, I thought I'd be pretty lucky to get it.
"I just want to get out, get on with it and hopefully not only get 100 but 101 and keep going up the numbers."
Asked whether George Gregan's world record 139 caps was under threat, Paterson said: "I do like to look forward, but not too far." (© Independent News Service)