Alun wyn Jones will lead the Ospreys into the new season after he was today confirmed as the region's new skipper.
The 24-year old British Lions and Wales second row takes over the captaincy from Ryan Jones, who had held the post since 2007.
Since making his Ospreys debut as a second half replacement in the first ever competitive game at the Liberty Stadium, against Leinster in September 2005, Jones has gone to establish himself as a mainstay of both the Ospreys and Wales teams. He reached a century of regional appearances at the end of last season in the Magners League Play-Off semi-final against Glasgow, taking his tally to 101 in the Final in Dublin two weeks later. In total he has seven tries to his credit for the region.
Capped by Wales for the first time during the 2006 tour to Argentina, he has gone on to rack up 40 international appearances in all (5 tries), and was part of the 2008 Grand Slam team, as well as earning three caps with the Lions in South Africa last year. During the 2008 Six Nations, he was handed the Welsh captaincy for the game against Italy in Rome.
Born and bred in Swansea, he graduated in law from Swansea University just last month.
Speaking after being appointed captain, Alun wyn said:
“I’ve captained my country once and I had a 20 minute stint with the Lions, and it’s fair to say that I didn’t really expect those honours so early in my career, and that’s the case here as well if I’m totally honest.
“I always watched Swansea growing up, I always aspired to play for the club and then, when rugby went regional, to play for the Ospreys. To be appointed captain is one of the memorable moments in your career, it’s a fantastic honour. It’s the start of a new chapter in my rugby career I suppose, and in my personal development.
“It’s probably my biggest challenge to date, looking forward there’s a lot in my career that I want to achieve. Being captain of the regional side, and representing not just Swansea like I aspired to but also, the other famous clubs that make up the region, it’s a big responsibility. I want to play a small part in what we know we can achieve at the Ospreys, and that ambition has always been there.”
Director of Coaching, Scott Johnson, revealed that the decision to appoint Alun wyn as captain had been made after lengthy discussions with several parties, including outgoing skipper Ryan Jones, and was one that was made with the good of both players, the Ospreys and Wales in mind. He explained:
“This appointment is about what’s best for everyone. Ryan has done a fantastic job as Ospreys captain over the last three years; his record with the region and Wales speaks for itself. However, holding both roles brings with it a tremendous workload that can take its toll on and off the field, particularly going into a long season that has a World Cup at the end of it. We feel that it’s in Ryan’s best interests, and the Ospreys and Wales for that matter, if he can focus on the national captaincy going into this important season, with the responsibility of the regional role handed to someone else.
“As you can imagine, the discussions about who should replace him were lengthy as we have an abundance of candidates to choose from. This decision wasn’t about the need to pick someone who would be here all season like some people have said, that wasn’t the issue. Like I explained, the issue was about workloads.
“We take our development responsibilities very seriously, particularly when it comes to our obligations to the national set-up. Part of that is an obligation to develop leaders, captains. In Alun wyn, we’ve identified a young man who is well respected by his peers, is intelligent and a natural leader, who we believe will go on to one day captain his country on a permanent basis. In order to enable him to do that, he needs to learn his trade at the region and we have put our faith in him for this season. He has experienced an awful lot in his career despite being just 24, and we believe that we can help him channel this experience into becoming an exceptional captain, who will serve his country well in that role in the future.”
Ryan Jones added:
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time as captain of the Ospreys, it’s meant a huge amount to me and my family over the last three years. It’s not a position that anyone relinquishes lightly, but we’ve had lengthy discussions about it over the summer and it’s the best move for the Ospreys and for Wales moving forward.
“I’ve always said that captaincy is a seat that you are keeping warm for someone else. I’ve done it to the best of my ability at all times, we’ve had highs and lows, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I think that Alun wyn is a fantastic person and will make a great captain. He’s only 24 so I can see him doing the job here for a long, long time, and he knows full well that he will have my full backing. It’s important also that I thank the players, supporters, staff and my family for the support they’ve given me while I’ve been captain.
“It’s the start of a very big season for us all. This allows me to focus on my game, and to give me the best possible opportunity of going to New Zealand for the World Cup next year as captain of Wales.”
As he prepares for his first season as Ospreys skipper, Alun wyn says that he is looking forward to the challenge, and that he will look to tap into the unquestionable rugby knowledge available among his team-mates.
“I come to work every day to learn and to improve, and I’m well aware that I don’t have all the answers” he said.
“I will turn up for work every day with the same attitude, regardless of being captain, and if I’m not learning there’s no point in me being here. I’m not afraid to ask for any help or to draw upon the vast experience around me in the squad.
“You look at Ryan, he has been my captain with region and country for a prolonged period and has done a fantastic job with Wales and the Ospreys. They are big shoes to step into and it’ll be a tough ask following on from the man who has won the EDF Cup and the Magners League in his three years as captain, as well as a Grand Slam with the national squad. He’s achieved a lot and I know that he will give me the support that I’ll need.
“There are other experienced players that will assist, Jerry Collins, Marty Holah, Duncan Jones and Paul James are all players that have captained the Ospreys as well, they are guys with a wealth of experience that I definitely won’t be afraid to draw upon.
“You have to learn your trade somewhere, and I’m grateful and honoured that the Ospreys have seen fit to give the captaincy to me. The development mantra is central to everything here and this is another part of that, another step in my development.”
One of the international contingent that only returned to training in August, he is currently putting in the hard pre-season work, but he says there’s a spring in his step ahead of the new campaign:
“I’m feeling really good in myself at the moment, there are no major niggles and I’m looking forward to going again. I had a long 24 month season almost with tours and the Lions etc, but going into this one I’m feeling pretty good. I had a pretty up and down season last time, it wasn’t my best season if I’m honest but I’ve learnt from and come out the other side. They say that you learn the best lessons in adversity.
“I know I’m not the complete player but I play with a real will to win, I want to win more than anyone else. That’s a kind of trait that some people develop and I believe I’ve got that. Every time I go out I’ll give my all for the jersey. The cliché term would be that I lead by example I suppose, but I’d say that I want to win more than anyone else and hopefully that rubs off on my team-mates.”