Rugby World Cup 2011: Wales coach praises Stephen Jones' record

Fly-half Stephen Jones has had to wait a long while to win his 101st Wales cap
Fly-half Stephen Jones has had to wait a long while to win his 101st Wales cap

Wales coach Warren Gatland has praised Stephen Jones as he prepares to become his country's most capped player.

The 33-year-old Scarlets and British and Irish Lions fly-half will win his 101st Wales cap in Monday's World Cup encounter with Namibia in New Plymouth.

Jones missed Wales' three August warm-up Tests with a calf injury but has been passed fit for the Pool D clash.

"It's a massive honour, we thought it was going to be a lot earlier than Monday against Namibia," Gatland said.

"He had to pull out at the last minute in that game at Twickenham against England... so I think it's a great achievement."

Jones currently jointly holds the Wales caps record with fellow centurion Gareth Thomas, the former Wales captain and back, but will move out on his own when he steps out at Stadium Taranaki.

Gatland said that Jones has been champing at the bit to get back on the field and that hunger has added to Wales' preparations to face group minnows Namibia.

Namibia were crushed 87-0 by South Africa midweek and Wales' minimum target against them is to claim a bonus-point win to take into next week's final, crucial pool game against Fiji.

Having narrowly lost to South Africa in their opening game, Wales know two more wins will be enough to book a quarter-final spot, probably against Ireland.

"It's great to see a player that's had a 100 - it'll be 101 - caps who's a little bit edgy, a bit nervous going into this, knowing how important his performance is," Gatland added.

"I think it's having a good, positive impact on the players around him, because he's been very motivated and he's been leading well and speaking well during training this week."

Gatland has made 11 changes from the side that beat Samoa 17-10 last week, with several players set for the first appearance at this tournament.

Ryan Jones, 30, despite having 53 caps, has never played at a World Cup because of untimely injuries but an ankle injury to Dan Lydiate sees him start at blindside flanker, in a back-row including number eight Toby Faletau and captain Sam Warburton.

"It's an opportunity for guys who haven't had a game on tour, a couple [of the changes] have been injury replacements.," Gatland said.

"For players like Stephen Jones coming back in, we felt there was one or two we wanted to rest as well like [scrum-half] Mike Phillips and one or two others.

"So we're not taking Namibia lightly in any way, but there's a lot of thought going into the selection in terms of looking at potential combinations.

"The back-row possibly for next week and also giving a few experienced players the opportunity to come back in the side and to stake a claim for selection against Fiji."