JONES: WHY BLASTING HE; ROBERT JONES EXCLUSIVE the Former Lions No9 Tells All in His Explosive New Book

Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales), September 16, 2001 | Go to article overview
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JONES: WHY BLASTING HE; ROBERT JONES EXCLUSIVE the Former Lions No9 Tells All in His Explosive New Book


AT A lunch before the first World Cup game against Argentina on 1 October 1999 I was asked to say Grace.

I went through the routine of thanking God for the food we were about to eat and finished with the words, "And most of all, Lord, we thank you for Graham Henry." It was intended as a joke. I knew people would laugh, and they did. That was the mood of the nation for the first 12 months of Graham Henry as coach.

We did not do as well as we had hoped in the World Cup, losing to Western Samoa and Australia, although perhaps as well as we could realistically have expected.

Going into the new millennium, we began to look at things with a slightly greater sense of proportion, to take a longer look and ask how far we had really come.

At the same time I was starting to do more work for radio and for newspapers, which meant I was looking at games more analytically rather than as a player or a fan.

It was clear to me by this time that there were a few cracks in the structure.

On a more personal level, I was unhappy about the complete absence of reaction by the Wales set-up when my brother Rhodri was seriously injured in a car crash in the summer of 1999.

It was no secret - the reports were in all the papers. Rhodri must have had a letter, a card or a phone call asking how he was and wishing him well from just about every club or invitation team he had ever played for or against, but there was nothing from the WRU or anyone involved in the national set-up.

And this, remember, was just after he had been on the Wales tour of Argentina and was in the preliminary squad for the World Cup. Every day I passed on messages to him - there were an unbelievable number of them - and Rhod would say, "Anything from the WRU?"

I know coaches are under immense pressure, but it should have been the easiest thing in the world for Graham Henry to pick up the phone and ask Rhod, "How are you?"

It would have made a world of difference to him, but to this day it has not happened.

Being a coach is not just about on-field organisation, but about dealing with people. That Henry, David Pickering or anyone else in the Wales set-up couldn't even take the slightest interest in a member of their squad who had seen his ambition to play for his country destroyed in an accident was a disgrace.

I was also unhappy, long before it was clear that there were problems about qualifications, with the practice of importing players who are not Welsh to play for Wales.

There is a simple point of principle here: I believe it is wrong. Where you come from, who your parents are, where your roots are, where you were born - these things should mean everything. Instead, they seem to count for very little.

People will always point out that Gwyn Nicholls, who captained the first Wales team to beat the All Blacks in 1905, and one or two other members of the team were born in England and will argue that this has always happened.

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