Posts Tagged ‘Ryan Jones’

Ryan Jones redefined the concept of a utility forward in Wales’s Grand Slam campaign, and the Ospreys man will switch positions again tonight.

After starting at blindside flanker against Ireland and at lock in the win over Scotland, Jones came on at No. 8 and openside in his remaining Six Nations appearances.

He will be shifted once more tonight, as he starts at second row for the Ospreys against Leinster at the RDS.

Jones has impressed for both the Ospreys and Wales at lock this season, and he admits his last game — at openside flanker against France — was testing.

“That was different. I was way out of my comfort zone,” said Jones.

“It’s not something I’m used to. I went out and did my best but I don’t think Warbs (Sam Warburton) or Tips (Justin Tipuric) have much to worry about.”

Jones is typically modest and, although he was playing out of position, the 31-year-old produced an excellent display last Saturday.

Carrying powerfully and tackling incessantly, his performance was characteristic of an outstanding personal Six Nations campaign.

After the tumult of the Grand Slam-clinching victory over France, a return to regional rugby may have seemed a little underwhelming to some.

But, for Jones, a clash against RaboDirect Pro12 title rivals Leinster is the ideal way of returning to Ospreys duty.

“It’s a great fixture and it’s nice to have a match of that magnitude — emotionally and physically it takes care of itself,” he said.

“We have huge fixtures now. It’s been great coming back in with the guys.

“There’s been a lot of change with guys leaving and a new philosophy coming in so it was great to chat to the guys.”

Jones’s best game of this year’s Grand Slam was arguably his first against Ireland and, although Wales emerged victorious last month, he does not think the result will have much bearing on tonight’s encounter.

“Whether Ireland have been successful or not has never been an issue for their provincial teams,” Jones added.

“They’re always competitive, they know how to win and that doesn’t change because Ireland have had a bit of a dip in form.

“Leinster are still a team with great players. If we want to be contenders we have to go to places like that and win.”

You can show you’re support for the Welsh region and for the Leinster team by buying you’re jerseys from Roksport. A massive range of Ospreys clothing and jerseys is available on sale from by clicking here and the Leinster jersey along with other RaboDirect teams is available by clicking here other teams include Cardiff Blues and Scarlets.

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HOW tough would it be for the cast of Raiders of the Lost Ark to find themselves in an episode of Coronation Street six days later?

Last Saturday the Ospreys’ Wales internationals were involved in the tumultuous experience of winning a Grand Slam. Crash, bang, wallop — soaring highs, frayed nerves, a spot of sporting tightrope walking, a few gasps, the odd tear, all ending with smiles and silverware being safely secured.

This week comes a rapid descent back to reality.

From the Slam to the RaboDirect Pro12, champagne to bread and butter.

However you look at it, there is some adapting to do.

Most of the players were up at Llandarcy on Tuesday, being checked over in readiness for the away game against Leinster this evening.

That said, it is misleading to suggest there is anything humdrum about the clash at the RDS. The Ospreys cannot even begin to view it like that.

Leinster are league leaders, the Ospreys are third, and for the Welsh region, in particular, there is plenty on the game, just as there will be plenty on every match between now and the end of the season.

They are third in the table but far from certain of finishing in the top four and securing a place in the play-offs. There are not enough points in the bank for the former Celtic champions to be untroubled about dropping even one more game.

Two defeats in a row have left the Ospreys looking over the shoulders.

A third setback would probably leave them requiring a perfect finish to the campaign from their remaining games: four wins out of four.

No pressure, then.

There is also the unfortunate reality that Leinster are the form side in European rugby. They haven’t just beaten some good sides in Dublin this term; they have smashed them.

Bath in the Heineken Cup were destroyed 52-27.

The Blues in the league were taken apart 52-9.

Ulster were crushed 42-13 on Boxing Day.

At full strength the Dubliners have morphed into a formidable side, one who are feared throughout Europe.

That is the scale of the challenge facing Steve Tandy tonight.

Forget what has happened up until now — this is where it starts for Tandy, the region’s newly appointed head coach. He has his best players back and with that fillip comes the responsibility of coaxing performances out of them.

Until now it has been difficult for anyone to form worthwhile impressions of his regime. Will it bring about a change of style? Might there be a different emphasis in selection? How will Tandy attempt to put his stamp on proceedings? How will he galvanise his collection of Grand Slam winners? Can he oversee a strong performance during a difficult period of cutbacks?

Players are human and can’t be expected to produce Grand Slam level of performances every week. But they will know, too, how badly their region need them to turn up in Dublin.

The vibe this week has been encouraging, with flanker Justin Tipuric adamant the Ospreys would arrive at the RDS with their business heads on. “You don’t pick and choose when you want to be competitive,” said Tipuric.

“We have five matches left to secure a place in the semi-finals and that’s what’s driving everyone on.”

Tipuric is one of the Slam brigade answering the Ospreys’ call in Dublin, along with Alun Wyn Jones, Ryan Jones, Paul James and Ashley Beck. All feature in the starting line-up, while Ian Evans, Adam Jones, Ryan Bevington, and Rhys Webb are on the bench.

Leinster are missing players, with Rob Kearney, Gordon D’Arcy, Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan, Cian Healy, Mike Ross, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip absent after their exertions in the Six Nations.

But the European champions underline their strength in depth by naming a side that includes the returning Brian O’Driscoll and Leo Cullen, plus the debut-making Brad Thorn. Isa Nacewa is at full-back, Luke Fitzgerald on the left wing and Richard Strauss at hooker. Just to add to the challenge facing the visitors, 17,300 tickets had been sold as of yesterday morning.

Tandy is under no illusions. “It’s a huge occasion for us,” he said. “Leinster are top of the table for a reason and they play some real good football. We’ll have to be at our best.

“But I don’t see it as daunting for our players. There will be a few young boys in our side but they will only be excited to be going up against world-class players.

“It’s been great to have the Grand Slam boys back. There were probably a few sore heads when they returned on Tuesday but they covered it up pretty well.

“The focus is on Leinster. Having 11 back from the Wales squad is a real positive. They have to push now for two important games, against Leinster this evening and then Treviso at home next week.

“After Treviso, the boys have seven or eight days off to see their families and get away from it all because we understand what an effect physically and mentally a Six Nations campaign can have.”

A key job for Tandy will be to knit the experience he has at forward with the youth at his disposal behind, with the Ospreys carrying four backs who are 22 or under this evening. Some might say the region have an unbalanced look, having parted company with so many quality backs.

But money is tight and players are going to have to take responsibility. “We need the Becks, the Bishops and the Biggars of this world to stand tall,” said chief operations officer Andrew Hore. “We need to go with these people.”

Leinster are looking to extend a 20-game unbeaten run, a sequence that stretches back to September 17 last year.

Rugby statisticians are still searching for evidence of a better chain of results by a top-flight side in the professional era.

But travelling to the Irish capital should not hold any fears for the Ospreys, given that they have won two of their last three visits there.

Even without key players, the Irish province will expect to account for Tandy’s team.

But the opportunity is there for the Ospreys to make a statement.

An against-the-odds success, powered by the ball-carrying of the likes of George Stowers and Richard Hibbard, would show that the league was not done and dusted — and remind Leinster that if the Ospreys have to return to Dublin for the grand final in May the result wouldn’t be a foregone conclusion.

Shane Williams has signed a new two-year contract to stay with the Ospreys.

The 34-year-old Wales winger says the contract with the Welsh region is likely to be his last as a player.

“I’ve never wanted to go anywhere else, this is where I’m happiest, and it’s where I want to finish my career.”

“It’s like a family at the Ospreys and I’m a part of the furniture here really,” said Williams in a statement released by the Ospreys.

“I’ve been here a long time now, since the beginning, and I was at Neath before that along with a lot of players who have gone on to become massive Ospreys legends.”

“I’m delighted to have finalised everything now and I’m excited about what’s in store over the next two seasons,” added Williams, who is set to retire from international rugby at the end of this year’s Rugby World Cup.

“You always get a lot of speculation at this time of year, you expect that and you are prepared for it as players.

“When your contract is up for renewal you find yourself reading a lot of speculation, and things that you are supposed to have said that you haven’t, so as players you don’t take any notice of it. I just want to play rugby.

“It’s been a long time finalising things, but I always wanted to stay at the Ospreys and the Ospreys always wanted me to stay. I’m glad that it’s all sorted now.”

Along with Williams signing a new deal the Ospreys have also given extended deals to players

Ryan Jones, Jonathan Thomas, Andrew Bishop, Richard Fussell, Tom Isaacs, Rhys Webb, James King, Kristian Phillips, Scott Baldwin and James Goode.

The region have also recruited Samoa scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i from New Zealand Super 15 side Crusaders, and back-rowers Joe Bearman [Dragons] and George Stowers [London Irish].