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Stephen Jones on Leigh, Jarrod, Callum and Jonah

Wales assistant coach Stephen Jones (left) with Wayne Pivac

Stephen Jones on Leigh, Jarrod, Callum and Jonah

Stephen Jones faced the media today and welcomed Dragons centre Aneurin Owen into the Wales squad for the two upcoming Tests against Argentina.

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The Wales backs coach also spoke about Leigh Halfpenny and his injury, predicting the 100 cap Scarlets full back will make it back to the top after undergoing knee surgery. He also pledged the full support of the WRU to help him in his recovery.

Here is what he had to say on the major topics of the day:

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ON LEIGH HALFPENNY

“We were devastated when he went down with his injury. It was the first time Leigh had got the ball in the game. He carried the ball back, and unfortunately he picked up a knee injury which requires surgery.

“He is such a wonderful player, as we all know, and a fantastic person. It was a tough one for everyone concerned. The guy is a fantastic professional, a class act who sets the standards in our environment and helps to push things forward. He is always so ambitious to improve.

“It was a special milestone for a guy who has worked incredibly hard and had an amazing career. It seemed so unfair for him to leave the pitch so soon, but he still has international rugby ahead of him.

“One thing about Leigh is he is mentally tough. He will do everything in his control to make sure he recovers and comes back as soon as he can. He is a superb professional and he will tick every box from that perspective. It will be nice to have him back with us as soon as he can.

ON THE CALL UP OF ANEURIN OWEN

“From his perspective, coming into our environment to see how we train and play, learn our philosophies, is great for him. We want to see what his skill-set is like, to see how comfortable he is as a ball-player in traffic and how comfortable he is playing at a speed. It is a great opportunity for us as coaches to examine his credentials.”

THOUGHTS ON CANADA GAME

“It was out first hit-out as a new group. From an attacking perspective, we were looking to see how the players dropped into our shape and at what our ball movement was like. I thought the second and third quarters were good, so there were lots of positives and learnings.

“We have a good challenge ahead of us, but we are looking forward to it. Our goal as coaches is to learn about this group of players. There are a lot of new guys coming into our environment.

“Ultimately, when you take the field, your responsibility is to the jersey and to make sure you get a positive result. Obviously, we have got to learn and develop within this period, and we are making sure we are going to definitely achieve that.”

ON ARGENTINA MATCHES

“It’s a great test for us. We’re playing against a physical side, a side who are coming off a victory over New Zealand and two drawn games against Australia in Australia, so they will be feeling good about themselves. It doesn’t change for us. We are back in the stadium with a crowd, with an excellent group who are desperate to prove their value to the coaching group and are desperate for success. It’s a great situation for us.”

ON THE NEWCOMERS TO THE WELSH TEAM

“We were able to give the guys coming off the bench a good chunk of game time and those guys have worked particularly hard with us in the last two weeks. It’s a special moment for these guys winning their first caps, but the key for us as coaches is that we keep on pushing them on and working hard to improve their standards. It was refreshing to see so many youngsters do well.”

AVAILABILITY OF JARROD EVANS

“Jarrod is fit and was training with us this afternoon. The medical team have done a fantastic job with him, just as Jarrod has done in managing himself. From our perspective, it’s great that we’ve got all our players available to us.”

OPTIONS AT NO 10

“Callum Sheedy is a great ball player when it comes to attacking the line and Jarrod is the same. They’re both great attacking threats and then there’s young Ben Thomas, who had a run out at No 10. We’ve got a huge amount of natural ability. It’s great for us and the way we want to play the game. They’ve got great skill-sets with which to ask questions of defences. That’s how we want to play the game. We’re blessed in that position.”

SHEEDY’S DEVELOPMENT

“If you look at Callum from a coach’s perspective, he’s very diligent and he works incredibly hard. He’s got a growth mindset and he wants to evolve and improve his game all the time. We play a different style to Bristol and obviously the demands of international rugby are different. I like the way he can adapt quickly. He’s got a great mindset, he’s ambitious and his standards are always going upwards.”

ON JONAH HOLMES

“If we look at our back three, we had Nick, who plays all his rugby at centre, going onto the wing in the first minute. Jonah went to full-back, so the amount of training time we’d had in that back three was limited. I thought the boys adapted very well. Jonah had a very strong end to the season with the Dragons. His preferred position is on the wing and he’d had limited time in the saddle in training but I thought he did well.

“Look at Jonah and he’s a running threat, he’s strong and physical. The challenge is to get more out of him because he’s got a lot of good to give. I’d say we’ve got more to come from Jonah, and that’s the good thing. We want to keep on pushing his standards. With him being that good a physical threat, let’s get him on the ball more often because it benefits him as an individual, but it also benefits us as a team.

“I’d like to think there is a lot more to come there. It’s a huge opportunity for him, as it is with a number of our players. We want these boys not just to play, but play well and push their standards forward. That way, when we get everybody back, we’re in a really healthy situation, which is where we want to be.”

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