Jones set to win race

Stephen Jones is set to be named at fly-half for Saturday's crunch World Cup clash with Australia in Cardiff after his match-winning contribution against Canada last weekend. [more]

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Stephen Jones is set to be named at fly-half for Saturday’s crunch World Cup clash with Australia in Cardiff after his match-winning contribution against Canada last weekend.

Wales will confirm their team selection for the pivotal Pool B game when they return to Cardiff on Thursday but Jones appears to have won the race with James Hook for the coveted number 10 jersey.

Jones has had his critics this year, particularly as captain during a disappointing Six Nations campaign, and he almost missed the World Cup through injury.

Sunday’s appearance against Canada was his first rugby in four months – but his performance demanded selection against the Wallabies.

Determined to "prove a point", Jones helped Wales score five tries in half an hour to turn a 17-9 deficit into a 42-17 bonus-point victory.

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And lock Ian Gough backed Jones to provide a repeat performance against the Wallabies if the Welsh forwards can build him the right platform from which to attack.

"Stephen is a superb player," said Gough. "He is someone the boys respect massively and follow him to the death, if you like.

"He has come in for a lot of criticism, harshly at times. In the Six Nations I was disappointed we didn’t give him the ball he deserved in the right areas to launch things.

"It is our duty this weekend to give him enough ball to show to everyone how good he is, as he proved when he came on against Canada.

"I was chuffed for him on Sunday. He has had a lot of injuries, a lot of pressure put on him. He came out there, he played and enjoyed himself and got us going.

"Tactically he is superb. With the ball in hand he can make a cracking break, he is a great tackler and a really good all-rounder.

"You don’t get voted the best 10 in France [during his time at Clermont Auvergne] for nothing. That proves his calibre."

Hook may yet feature at inside centre, though there are suggestions the young prodigy could be used off the bench – just as he was to such great effect in Wales’ 29-29 draw with Australia last November.

Hook, touted as a potential star of the tournament, was replaced by Jones in the Canada game but head coach Gareth Jenkins insists "there is no crisis with James".

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