Saturday 24 March 2018

Biggar condemns claims as kick fuss rolls on

Embattled Welsh support skipper Alun-Wyn Jones, writes David Kelly

Alun Wyn Jones will lead Wales again. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images
Alun Wyn Jones will lead Wales again. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images
David Kelly

David Kelly

More Welsh big-hitters were rolled out to defend their captain Alun-Wyn Jones in the aftermath of Saturday's Cardiff defeat to Scotland but all served only to muddy the waters.

Jones wanted to go for the three points when Wales were awarded a penalty on 50 minutes, with his team trailing just 16-13 to Scotland.

Biggar asked whether he wanted to kick to the corner instead, but accepted his captain's decision when he confirmed a shot at goal and went to hand the ball over to primary place-kicker Leigh Halfpenny.

But Lions full-back Halfpenny didn't fancy it, so Jones opted to go for the corner instead.

Such is the confusion that yesterday, Jones' former Test colleague, Shane Williams, suggested Jones should not have been overruled by an out-half, Dan Biggar, while in Wales full-back, and usual place-kicker, Leigh Halfpenny, offered himself up as the culprit.

Jones publicly said he deferred to his team's kickers but now they have both tugged the forelock of their wavering captain in what, on the face of it, appears to be a pathetically weak demonstration of solidarity.

"The bottom line is Leigh has held his hands up and said he didn't fancy the kick," said Biggar, as the pass-the-parcel of blame farce continued.

"To which, in as many words, Alun-Wyn has said, 'Sod it, we'll go to the corner then'.

"It was a very amicable chat and for me it was never about overruling the captain. Where that came from and who put that out there, I have no idea.

"I've asked Al. If it was on the '22' and bang in front, I wouldn't have asked. As it was on the touchline, I've asked the question about whether to go for the corner.

"I've turned - which I don't think some people have seen on the video footage - to give the ball to Leigh but he hasn't taken it and sometimes that's the way it goes.

"It was a tough day and a tough kick, so then I've put the ball in the corner. Does that sound like I've overruled the captain?

"It's been a pretty hurtful couple of days. It's not nice being questioned about whether you've overruled the captain, let alone it being someone like Alun-Wyn who I've huge respect for. Maybe that's a point for the future.

"Everyone sees the side of me that is full of confidence, but ultimately things like that are quite hurtful, not just to me, but to my family.

"It's pretty hurtful to have people phoning you up and asking if you've disrespected your captain."

Biggar could have taken the kick but, after being at pains to demonstrate that he didn't want to underestimate his captain, the captain himself explained that Biggar didn't want to undermine Halfpenny by bagging the kick.

Clearly, multiple attempts at protesting too much and it all so mirrors England's collective leadership implosion 24 hours later.

"I motioned to the posts a couple of times and the ref agreed with me," added Jones. "Leigh felt the conditions weren't right and fortunately we were still able to go to the lineout. When you captain your country leadership and critiquing of things you do and the things you say are always going to be there.

"Dan's said because of his respect for Leigh he didn't want to be seen to undermine him or myself so that's why I went to the lineout.

"Obviously from my point of view to level the scores would have been a good place to be midway through the second-half."

Ireland, in stark contrast, are brimming with strong leaders and they visit Cardiff on Friday week seeking to condemn Wales to a second successive home defeat.

"We're presented with another challenge against a top, top team," adds Biggar. "They've been on a roll since Murrayfield and this is a must-win game for them if they want to win the title."

Irish Independent

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