As he steps up his return from a lengthy injury lay-off with his first start in just over three months tomorrow night, skipper Alun Wyn Jones says he's ignoring talk about the possibility of stepping straight into Six Nations duty.
With 30 minutes under his belt as a second half replacement in last weekend’s win in Edinburgh, Jones resumes his position in the second row when the Ospreys entertain Aironi at the Liberty Stadium in a non-televised fixture on Friday evening insisting that his sole focus is finding form and fitness with his region:
“It’s been three months and a week so I’m happy to be starting again and I’m looking forward to running out and seeing the crowd from the pitch instead of being in the crowd myself. I just want to pull the jersey on at home again.
“It always seems an eternity for any player who gets injured, you always want to be back playing as soon as possible. You’ve just got to keep plugging away and I’m fortunate that we’ve got good medical staff here to get me back playing quicker than anticipated.
“I felt pretty good coming off the bench last week, probably a little better that I thought it would go. I was a little bit cautious as you would be coming back from injury of any kind really, but I’ve got another week’s training under my belt now and I’m keen to get out there and carry on from the good work that’s been done in the PRO12 while I’ve been out of the side. It’s nice to be able to pull the jersey and the armband on again and hopefully I can put in a decent performance to do the region credit.
“I don’t know about Wales. I need game time, I’m very conscious of that. You’ll always play for your country if the call comes but I’ve got too much respect for the shirt and for other players to feel that I can slip straight back into the squad and feature next week in some way. My sole focus is on the Ospreys over the coming weeks.”
With changes to the coaching staff being announced on Wednesday, Jones was back on the training pitch on Thursday morning under the watchful eye of new Head Coach Steve Tandy, and he said that it’s time for everyone to get behind the new man in charge:
“When I re-signed to the Ospreys I knew that moving forward there was going to be a lot of transition and that’s been the case. There was last year, it’s continued into this year, changes have happened and changes are afoot. People have asked for that, I’m just hopeful now that everyone who asked for change can see that change has happened and will embrace it and move forward with the Ospreys.
“I’m fortunate enough to have come through the ranks when Steve was a senior player at the Ospreys. He’s got all the qualities he’ll need to lead this team and he’s got the respect of everyone here. Every player here will be 100 per cent behind him in his efforts to get us playing some attractive, running rugby, which hopefully we’ll be able to do.
“He’s probably a surprise appointment looking from the outside, where people would have maybe expected a bit more experience but as players we’ve got a huge amount of respect for him. We’re conscious of the good work he’s already done, he's shown what he’s capable of and I believe it’ll be a seamless transition for him. Senior players, myself included, know that we have a part to play. We know what he’ll bring to the job and we’ll be 100 per cent behind him, definitely.
“With regards to Sean and Johnno, they’ve put a lot of hard work in for the cause, over Johnno’s three year tenure and Sean’s nine year period. They have always put the cause first, developing a lot of young players and helping a lot of senior players improve, and we all wish them all the best in whatever roles they move into next.”
With just eight games remaining in the PRO12 the Ospreys are well placed for a third consecutive semi-final, and Jones says it’s important that the team puts together a run of results to ensure a home tie in the knockout stages:
“We’re looking for that home semi, we are still in second place, but it’s important that we maintain the highest standards so we can stay there. Our sole focus as players this week has been about rugby, as it should be, we are conscious that we’ve got a lot of work to be done if we are going to cement that home semi so there won’t be any let up. That hard work starts on Friday and it’ll be great to see a good crowd to help us get this run-in off to a good start.”