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Wales captain Jones focuses on future as Pivac era dawns

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Cardiff (United Kingdom) (AFP)

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones has urged his team to put their past achievements to one side ahead of their first competitive match under new coach Wayne Pivac.

Saturday's Six Nations opener against Italy in Cardiff will signal the start of a new era for Wales after the former Scarlets boss succeeded Warren Gatland.

Wales won three Grand Slams and reached two World Cup semi-finals in 12 years under New Zealander Gatland, who stepped down after guiding the Welsh to the last four of the 2019 global showpiece in Japan.

Fellow Kiwi Pivac was at the helm for a win over the Barbarians in a non-cap match in November but this weekend is a different matter as the reigning Grand Slam champions begin their Six Nations title defence.

"Obviously, it was a long period that 'Gats' was here, and with the success he had," veteran lock Jones said Friday.

"But it's the first one for Wayne, and I am conscious, and the group is conscious, that we are not going to look back. The new management is in situ, and the focus is on tomorrow and what is to come."

He said Wales were raring to get out on the pitch after a few weeks together.

"We had an influx of young players about 18 months to two years ago, and the experience and success is something we want to build on as a group with the new faces in the management as well," he added.

Pivac's first Test side shows just four changes from the side beaten 19-16 by eventual champions South Africa in last year's World Cup semi-final.

Jonathan Davies, Gareth Davies and Tomas Francis are all injured, while number eight Ross Moriarty is on the bench as Taulupe Faletau returns to the back row.

- 'Good vibe' -

"I am really looking forward to it. I'm excited to see the way the boys are working in and around the environment, and there is a good vibe around the place," an excited Pivac said.

"To be honest, any surprises have been pleasant surprises. I am very happy with the entire group at the moment."

Pivac, whose two sons have travelled from New Zealand to see their father's Six Nations debut, knows he has a hard act to follow but the former policeman said some things had stayed the same.

"The first thing is, we are no different. We are passionate about the game and we want to win," he said.

Asked what the game meant to him personally, Pivac replied: "It is business as usual, but it will be a special moment.

"I am sure I will enjoy it internally and I will have a smile on my face. It will be a very proud moment."

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