We’ve come out of a big trough, says Alun Wyn Jones
“THEY say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, said a straw-clutching member of the English press to one of Stuart Lancaster’s squad in the aftermath of the Millennium Stadium massacre.
It’s a motto that the player, fresh from a 30-3 drubbing, found hard to agree with, yet Wales are proof of adversity being a test of real character.
The flak was flying following the opening day debacle against Ireland, and rightly so, a talented group of players had lost eight Tests on the spin.
But they remained tight amid the criticism and have reaped the rewards.
“There were question marks over the side coming from the autumn and into the first game and it takes good sides to turn things around like that,” said lock Alun Wyn Jones, who missed the first two games of the tournament with a shoulder injury.
“When things are tough it is about standing up and being counted, if you can do that there is a bit of substance.
“We have come out of a big trough and shown great character to turn it around, which is a credit to the environment we have here.”
Evidence of Wales’ character comes through their suffocating defence, which hasn’t shipped a try since Brian O’Driscoll sneaked over 42 minutes into that frustrating opener.
Even when the title was in the bag they dug deep to fly into England as they chased a late consolation, that commitment paying off with a fourth clean sheet on the spin.
“I thought I was chasing shadows for the first half because it was pretty intense. It was like Super 15 out there,” said 27-year-old Jones.
“As we grew into the game and the scoreline grew it got better for us and it is funny, the more phases you defend, the more organised you get and the stronger you get. That was pretty telling.
“It was very much a case of us keeping the pressure on.
“You can teach anyone a pattern of rugby, but when the muck hits the fan you have got to create something and we were able to do that. Our defence and attack went hand in hand.”
And that was personified by the performance of openside Justin Tipuric, a man who made England’s life hell at the breakdown yet also provided an assist for Alex Cuthbert’s second try that plenty of the backs on the field would not have been able to match.
“When he gets the opportunity to play in red, he takes it,” said Jones about his Ospreys teammate.
“He gives you continuity.
“A lot of opensides are there to slow the ball down but essentially rugby is about using the ball and he is one of the best sevens in the world game at doing that and he can do the other stuff as well.”