TIGHTHEAD Adam Jones believes there is no reason why Wales cannot defend their Six Nations title, despite concerns over injuries and form.
Prop Jones, 31, made a welcome return from two months out with a knee injury in the Ospreys’ 17-6 Heineken Cup win over Toulouse on Saturday, providing Welsh rugby with a major boost after a miserable autumn.
Jones was absent as Wales suffered an autumn series whitewash which dropped them into the third tier of the world rankings and a difficult 2015 World Cup pool including Australia and hosts England.
And prior to the Ospreys’ stunning triumph over four-time European kings Toulouse, the regions had managed just one win from nine Heineken Cup games.
Wales have also been hit heavily by injuries and Dan Lydiate, Rhys Priestland, Alun Wyn Jones and Aaron Jarvis will all miss at least part of the Six Nations.
The likes of Ian Evans, Jamie Roberts, Aaron Shingler and Leigh Halfpenny will also need to prove their fitness before the February meeting with Ireland in Cardiff.
But 83-cap front-rower Jones said: “It was tough to miss the autumn series because you know what it’s like in camp – the build-up is always exciting.
“It was probably a good series to miss, the way it turned out. But I don’t think we’ve turned into a poor team overnight.
“There's a lot of talent in the squad. If we can get everyone fit, we can give anyone in the Six Nations a run for their money.
“A lot has been made about Warren Gatland being away on Lions duty but the coaches there are fantastic anyway.
“Of course Gats is a big influence, but I don’t see why we can’t retain our title. It’s obviously going to be difficult, but I don’t see why not.”
Meanwhile, the chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union, Roger Lewis, says they will consider using an artificial pitch in the Millennium Stadium for matches during the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
At least six games are to be played in Cardiff during the tournament, and with the turf currently being replaced several times a year, the WRU believes using a synthetic surface could be a practical alternative.
“(An artificial grass pitch) is being given serious consideration. We are looking at the implications,” said Lewis.
A layer of stone, a thick black rubber shock pad and a covering of artificial green yarn 5cm deep with an in-fill of black rubber crumb make up the surface, which has been approved by the International Rugby Board.
The only concern the WRU has is whether the pitch will be able to take hosting music shows, which regularly occur at the Stadium.
“They use some very serious trucks for their equipment,” Lewis said. “We’d need to be satisfied that the new surface can take it.”