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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 March 2007, 13:03 GMT
Jones loss a blessing - Bennett
Wales captain Stephen Jones
Jones shows the scars of battle from Rome
Former Wales and Lions fly-half Phil Bennett says Stephen Jones' injury may be a "blessing in disguise".

"If Stephen is 100% fit and mentally right he has to be Wales' captain and 10," he said after Jones' broken wrist ruled him out of the England game.

"But he looked pale, ashen and beaten up after the loss to Italy and it was time to get him out of the firing line.

"I'm most concerned with Stephen's health and stability, and the injury could be a blessing in disguise."

SIX NATIONS BLOG
BBC Wales' Sean Davies

In Rome, Jones had been struck by a Mauro Bergamasco punch that led to a four-week ban for the Italian flanker.

He left the pitch for stitches and, after temporarily returning to the pitch, suffered from blurred vision.

Fans had been calling for Jones to be dropped with James Hook moving from inside centre to outside-half.

There's no question of it being a convenient injury, that would be a coward's way out on selection and a cynical thing to suggest

Wales coach Gareth Jenkins

That has now happened, with Gareth Thomas coming in as captain and number 12 to form a physical centre partnership with Tom Shanklin.

But Wales coach Gareth Jenkins was in no doubt that Jones' loss was a major blow to his side's chances.

"There's no question of it being a convenient injury, that would be a coward's way out on selection and a cynical thing to suggest," Jenkins told BBC Sport Wales.

"James Hook has gone very well at 12 and worked well there with Stephen.

All the squad feel bad for Stephen, he's not had much luck over the last month and there's been a lot of pressure on him

Wales full-back Kevin Morgan

"I was very comfortable with the original plan to keep them together, but now we've had to change and our game plan will have to adapt."

Wales full-back Kevin Morgan added: "It's a big loss, Stephen's our leader and takes the pivotal outside-half role.

"All the squad feel bad for him, he's not had much luck over the last month and there's been a lot of pressure on him.

"We expect criticism after defeats, but some of the things that have been written about Stephen are a bit out of order.

"At least we have someone like Gareth to step in as captain, he's led us a lot - and very successfully.

"It's also a big opportunity for James, he's performed well over the past season when he's been asked to slot in at 10."

Bennett, himself a former Wales and Lions captain, was also upbeat about the changes to the team.

"Hook is a very exciting talent, a wonderful runner, and the man the public want," Bennett told BBC Sport Wales.

"My only questions are whether he can control a full game, and whether he has the tactical kicking to expose England's new full-back Mark Cueto.

"Gareth will come in and really stoke the team up. But what he needs is for the entire nation to get behind the team against England on Saturday, like we saw the Irish crowd do at Croke Park last month."


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