New British & Irish Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones says he won’t allow emotion to get the better of him when he leads his side into battle with the Qantas Wallabies this Saturday.
The Wales and Ospreys lock replaced national team-mate Sam Warburton as skipper for the decisive third Test after the openside flanker was ruled out with a hamstring tear earlier in the week.
Jones will be leading the Lions for the first time in what tour manager Andy Irvine has described as one of the biggest games in the last 30 or 40 years but he insists he won’t be looking to do anything different despite the magnitude of the occasion.
“You can get swept away with it, say too much, try too hard,” said Jones, who is featuring in his sixth straight Test for Britain and Ireland’s elite.
“I’ve been there and done that in the past for the Ospreys. In the first year of captaincy there I learnt a lot but I’ve had a couple of years since and it’s been going well for me there. So I will just carry on with what I’ve been doing back at the club essentially.
“I know the next question will be it’s a different circumstance, a big game and all the rest of it, but set that aside, it’s just another rectangle of grass on the other side of the world. Obviously it’s a big game, the decider, but as long as we rise to the pressure and don’t necessarily try too hard, we will be in a good place.
“I don’t really want to change anything. I just want to keep going the way I have been going on a personal level. As Gats (head coach Warren Gatland) alluded to, I’m not going to tell the backs how to kick, how to pass or how to run. It’s a case for me to do what I’ve been doing with the other seven in the pack and hopefully bring the win.”
Jones was heavily involved in the Lions’ last series defeat in South Africa four years ago, a series which could so easily have gone the other way.
The Springboks won the first Test by just five points in Durban and the second courtesy of a last-minute penalty in Pretoria but Jones insists any suggestion of potential similarities – even with regards to the Lions’ thumping third Test win in Johannesburg – are a million miles away from his mind.
“It’s different opposition, (although) again it’s the same jersey. But you can’t carry hangovers like that for too long in sport because it comes back to bite you on the backside,” added Jones.
“Don’t forget that going into the third Test we had already lost the series anyway. So it’s a different time line. We are going into the third game with everything to play for. The way the talk has been going around the camp it doesn’t feel there’s necessarily a lot of pressure on us. Sometimes that’s a good place to be, sometimes it’s a bad place to be. We’ll find out on Saturday.”
So what does Jones believe will be the key to success in Sydney on Saturday? In short, game management will be crucial at the ANZ Stadium: setting a solid platform at the setpiece, getting over the gainline through the likes of the returning Jamie Roberts, controlling territory and using possession wisely.
“A lot was said about the set piece, that we didn’t get what we wanted out of it last week. We did get what we wanted out of it but didn’t use it wisely enough and probably didn’t get the fluidity from the set piece we wanted. Some of that was on our terms, some of it wasn’t, but as long as we get the 25 per cent of it that was own fault right we are going to be in a good place.
“You look at some of the early games, the phrase that was used a lot was game management. It’s something we experienced last year with Wales. We’ve experienced it a little bit throughout the tour. As long as we are heads-up and control the game a little bit more on our terms we are going to be in a good state.
“The thing people associate with Jamie (Roberts) is getting over the gain line and I’m sure he’s going to give us that at the weekend. Hopefully he will be used in the right areas, to (aid) the pack who we felt we didn’t get into the game as much as we wanted to with regards to carries. If Jamie gets us across the gain line, which I’m sure he will, we will have that opportunity to play.”