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Wales told to be bold

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Sportal.co.nz     08 Feb 2013     Getty Images

Jones will captain his country for a 30th time - an ongoing record - after skipper Sam Warburton was sidelined from the Paris mission because of a shoulder problem.

Warburton, who missed two games during last season's Grand Slam campaign due to injuries, joins fellow stars like Alun-Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Luke Charteris, Bradley Davies and Rhys Priestland on the Six Nations sidelines.

But flanker Jones, who is among three survivors from Wales' last away victory over Les Bleus eight years ago, offers 70 caps' worth of international experience to a team targeting an immediate recovery following last weekend's 30-22 home defeat against Ireland.

Jones is joined in a reshaped back-row by brilliant Ospreys openside Justin Tipuric, while hooker Richard Hibbard completes a trio of changes from five days ago.

Hibbard replaces Matthew Rees, who is omitted from the match-day 23, with Jones featuring at blindside instead of Aaron Shingler.

Wales' interim head coach Rob Howley confirmed that had Warburton been fit, he would have started and been captain. Trusted lieutenant Jones, though, now steps forward.

"As you get older, you have that experience to draw upon. You train and prepare as if you are playing, and when called upon it is down to you to do a job. Have boots, will travel," Jones said.

"Paris is a wonderful place to go - it's a great rugby arena. There is nothing quite like playing France in Paris. It's loud, it's noisy.

"Something we have tried to instil in the guys this week is to look forward to it, be bold and let's have a real good crack."

Wales have only triumphed in the French capital three times since 1975, and they again travel as underdogs despite Les Bleus' shock loss to Italy 24 hours after Ireland successfully stormed the Millennium Stadium.

"France are going to come out smarting, and it is going to be a pretty fierce opening, but you wouldn't expect anything else from France in Paris," Jones added.

"It's about us maintaining belief, keeping our composure and a cool head and making sure we play the way we train.

"I've been in changing rooms like the one last week, and I've been in successful ones as well. One thing we've said this week is about picking your chin up and knuckling down."

Jones, fully fit after being laid low by a bout of sickness that forced him to miss training on Tuesday, broke the Wales captaincy record earlier this season.

Now in his testimonial year at the Ospreys, Jones' experience will be critical for a Wales team seeking a first victory over another Test-playing country since they beat France to land the Six Nations title and Grand Slam almost 11 months ago.

"Ryan has a wealth of experience," Howley said.

"When he has been asked to be captain he has always led from the front, and I see no difference this weekend."

Topping Wales' agenda is avoiding a repeat of their first-half horror show against Ireland. Trailing 23-3 at the break - and then 30-3 after 43 minutes - there was no realistic way back into a contest billed as a genuine 50-50 encounter before kick-off.

"Looking back at the (Ireland) game, from a coaches' and players' perspective the first-half performance wasn't good enough. It will not be replicated," Howley added.

"Our discipline let us down. You need to have field position and possession, and we gave Ireland a lot of field position.

"But when you look at that first half, it is all fixable. It is about us being accurate, executing and being disciplined. It has been discussed with the players, and I know we will start better this weekend.

"We've talked about the plan we want to play and how we implement it. You can't give any side a foothold in a game through your own lack of discipline and unforced errors.

"We've lost eight games in a row, but the wonderful thing about the Six Nations is every game is taken in isolation, but you make sure you learn from the previous week.

"We feel that the intensity and our mindset in training this week has been a little bit sharper. When you lose, or play like we did in the first half last week, it certainly focuses the mind."

Two changes on the bench from last Saturday see Shingler replacing Tipuric and Cardiff Blues lock Lou Reed in for Harlequins' Olly Kohn, who was unavailable because of injury.

Six squad members - Ryan Bevington, Scott Andrews, James King, Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi and Andries Pretorius - have been released to their regional teams for this weekend's PRO12 schedule.