Ryan has RWC in his sights

Ryan Jones has captained the Ospreys to silverware, won two Grand Slams with Wales and become a Test player with the British & Irish Lions on tour in New Zealand, but he admits there is still a box left un-ticked on his list of 'things to do in rugby'.

The 52-times capped Osprey, who played in all five matches of Wales 2005 Grand Slam and led from the front as captain in every game of the 2008 triumph, has still yet to take part in rugby’s showpiece event. Jones made his Wales debut in 2004, against South Africa in the 38-36 defeat at Millennium Stadium, and missed the 2007 RWC in France through injury.

He had, arguably, made his name on the world stage in the summer of 2005 when he flew out to join the British & Irish Lions tour of New Zealand as a late replacement to take part in all three Tests, starting in the final two.And, after leading Wales to Grand Slam glory in 2008, he was short-listed for the IRB World Player of the year award, one of only two Welshman to achieve that honour – the other being fellow Osprey Shane Williams who claimed the trophy that same year.

But a seat at World rugby’s highest table has, so far, eluded him.

“I would dearly love to be there (RWC 2011), I know New Zealand is a great place to play rugby,” said Jones, speaking  from Wales’ second pre-RWC training camp in Spala, Poland.

“I’ve toured there with the Lions and going there with Wales last year was a great experience and going there for the world cup would have to be the ultimate for any rugby player.

“A World Cup would be a new thing for me and it’s something every international rugby player wants to experience. It’s one of the boxes that I’ve yet to tick and I’m going to do everything in my power, personally, to try to make sure I’m there.But we have three tough matches first before we go out there.”

Wales play England at Twickenham on Saturday 6th August and face them in the return fixture at the Millennium Stadium just a week later, before taking on Argentina at home on Saturday 20th August (all 2.30pm).

“The back-to-back clashes with England are quite unique in terms of preparation,” said Jones.

“It’s almost like a two-Test summer tour or a tournament where you are looking to win the series, but obviously with a home game in there.

“England seem to be hitting form at the right time as well. I read recently that Jonny Wilkinson has said the feeling in the England camp is similar to their build up to the World Cup which they won. He said he feels they are getting the balance right, which means they will formidable opposition.

“But if we can keep creating chances like we have been doing and finish them off then we will do well and there can be no better opposition to test us before the World Cup. They will be two incredibly physical matches and then we face the Pumas at home in that final game at the Millennium Stadium before travelling to New Zealand.

“They are a team made up of top quality players from all over Europe, a bit like Samoa and Fiji in that respect. And they are always a tough side to crack with a great set piece and a mental toughness. If we can get the right results and the right performances this summer then it will stand us in good stead. It’s going to be tough, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Jones is one of 35 players on the current training camp at the Olympic training venue which offers Cryotherapy treatments to aid recovery. Further announcements will be made on Wales’ return from Poland about personnel for the matches against England and the Pumas, but the squad Jones is desperate to make is the one announced on the 22nd August.

That is the date pencilled in for Wales’ 30-man RWC squad announcement and the Ospreys flanker knows he is relishing the challenge from a host of youngsters all competing for back row positions.

“We have a squad overflowing with good youngsters at the moment they are all good athletes and they have all hit form at the right time for the rugby world cup,” said Jones.

“The likes of Toby Faletau and Justin Tipuric are keeping us all looking over our shoulders and I’m looking forward to seeing how they do at international level. I know Toby has his cap already but it seems like there is much more to come from him and I know all about Justin from the Ospreys and they are both exciting players.

“Justin has had a good amount of game-time at the Ospreys and everyone has been impressed with him. He is an out and out seven, he plays with that innate ability to read the game, he knows all about the dark arts of that position and he is great athlete to boot.

“He is going to be a huge asset for the Ospreys and I can’t wait to see how he goes for Wales. He is one of the new breed of professional rugby players who has been coached through the levels and is now ready to step up

“There are obviously different things to consider at the top level, but it is going to be interesting to watch him make the step up as there is no doubting his ability.”

Jones may be in the middle of Poland with nothing but rugby training and cryotherapy on his mind at the moment, but there is one result from the rugby world which did not escaped the attention of him and his colleagues over the weekend.

Wales meet Samoa in RWC Pool D next September and their 23-32 defeat of Australia has not gone un-noticed in deep eastern Europe.

“We’ve obviously read all about Samoa’s win over Australia and we’ll get to the video tapes at some stage, but it certainly comes as no surprise that they can turn over teams on their day,” added Jones. "We know what to expect from them and similarly from Fiji and if there is any side that doesn’t need to be told about the dangers of underestimating either of them then its Wales.

“However, I’ve always been a big believer that past games count for nothing and that any side can win on any given day. Obviously that works both ways whish Samoa have shown, but we will prepare well and then, when we get to New Zealand, it will be about what happens on the pitch and nothing else will matter when that whistle goes.”