RYAN Jones says the return of Warren Gatland to the Wales camp this week has given the players a big boost ahead of Saturday’s All Blacks showdown.
Wales desperately look to the New Zealander to help them plot the downfall of his countrymen at the Millennium Stadium this weekend.
Kiwi Gatland has been a little out of the picture of late, missing most of Wales’ 3-0 series defeat in Australia in the summer, while recovering after breaking bones in both feet in a fall from a ladder in his native New Zealand.
And he has been forced to take a back seat as a condition of accepting the Lions job for their tour of Australia next year.
Since his assistant Rob Howley took over as head coach, Wales haven’t won a match and this autumn has seen two disastrous performances end in comprehensive defeats to Argentina and Samoa.
Blindside flanker Jones, who captained Wales for a record-breaking 29th during the 26-19 loss to Samoa last Friday, is glad to have Gatland back for New Zealand and for next week’s clash with Australia.
“Warren was excellent when he came back in on Monday and pitched the right tone for the group and people have responded very well,” the former Newport player said.
“Warren has been in and around the camp and his presence is still felt.
“He still has a huge influence over the players and the coaching group.”
The 31-year-old Jones, who wins his 69th cap on Saturday, knows Wales have to improve drastically against the World Cup champions.
“For us it is about the group of guys who take the field and getting the preparation right, which has been very good,” he said.
“Turning things around quickly is what professional sport is about.
“Whether you win lose or draw, you have to front up the following week and you can’t afford to become involved with the emotional highs and lows.”
Jones knows Wales will have it all to do when they come up against the king of the contact area, All Blacks captain and openside flanker Richie McCaw.
“The breakdown dictates game and have become more important than the set-piece,” he said.
“Ball retention and turnovers are vital for us and we will be up against one of the masters this Saturday in Richie McCaw.
“We know what to expect and the challenge for us is to match that physicality.
“It is all down to interpretation and you are looking for an edge.”
Jones admits Wales face a daunting challenge.
“The All Blacks are the best team on the planet and they have kicked on since winning the World Cup,” he said.
“New Zealand are incredible and they are the complete team because they can match you physically and they can loosen up and look to score from anywhere during the game.”