Mike Ruddock is currently the Irish under 20s coach and is also the man who took Wales to their first Six Nations grand slam win in the professional era. The 56-year-old is not only a good man but an excellent coach.
However, he has been quoted by the BBC as stating Wales missed a trick leaving out veteran hooker Richard Hibbard and internationally-retired prop Adam Jones.
It is true that a wheel from the scrum did allow Duane Vermeulen to break free and get the pass to Fourie Du Preez. However, the poor defence of Alex Cuthbert contributed to the Springboks' captain crossing the white line.
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I also agree that Richard Hibbard could have taken Jake Ball’s spot in the Rugby World Cup squad. Ball was the weakest of the locks going into the tournament and, even with rotation, went unused while Hibbard could have been useful.
However, I fall out with Ruddock’s opinion on the point that Hibbard and Adam Jones could have strengthened the scrum significantly. Hibbard is a bigger man than Ken Owens and Scott Baldwin, this is true. But Baldwin strikes the ball well and is no lightweight in the scrum while Ken Owens was part of the most dominant Welsh scrums in the Pro12 last year.
As for Jones, he has been a great servant to Wales and is an excellent person in general.
But the changing scrum laws have made him a spent force at the top level. He is still a strong man, but his scrum techniques do not suit the new scrum rules, which is more of a wrestle. Saying he could power up the Welsh scrum is to miss the changes in the law.
Jones also lacks the round-the-field presence required of a tight head in the modern game. The best modern tight-heads in the sport at the moment are Australia’s Sekope Kepu and Scotland's import, WP Nel, both do a lot of grafting around the pitch and can carry the ball; things that Jones lacks in his game.
Is Jones really a big miss?
I feel that while the loyalty to Jones is admirable, I don’t know what he could have brought to the Wales squad that was lacking in the selected tight-heads.
Samson Lee is a very good scrummager and a hard worker in the loose. Tomas Francis needs to work on his fitness but his scrummaging is okay and he is a defensive rock. Aaron Jarvis was taken as a 'problem-solver, in the front row, covering loosehead, tight-head and hooker, he offers a lot around the park and with ball in hand, though, his scrummaging isn’t the strongest.
I feel Wales could have used another loosehead like Rob Evans, Nicky Smith or Ryan Bevington, all of whom have done well under the new scrum laws and are very mobile around the field.
Time to accept Jones' retirement
I do feel that veteran rugby players, pundits and coaches need to accept that Adam Jones has retired and that the scrum laws don’t suit him as they once did.
Making his retirement at 34-years-old needs to stop being treated as a 'tragedy' and a 'controversial mistake' by the Welsh coaches. It detracts from a wonderful career filled with many achievements and devalues the new crop of talent that Wales is developing in the front row. All greats retire and changes in the game sometimes have a negative effect on their careers, that’s just a fact of the game.
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