Alun Wyn Jones reported back for duty at the Ospreys Llandarcy HQ this week and after being put under the microscope by the region's strength and conditioning team, the skipper says that he's feeling good and raring to go after his summer break.
Following an extra-long season that began last August with the Rugby World Cup warm-up fixtures and saw him involved in all four summer tests for Wales after the PRO12 Final win over Leinster at the end of May the big second row enjoyed a delayed four week summer break, but his focus now is firmly on preparations for the coming season.
“I’m feeling pretty good after a few weeks off” said Jones.
“It’s been a long couple of years straight through with the World Cup but I’ve rested and it’s good to be back in work again to be honest, to see all the boys and to get back into the swing of things again.
“After the way we ended the season, a good run of wins playing decent rugby and ending up with a bit of silverware, I’d say most of us if not all have been itching to get back in. We were on a roll and you’d probably say it was the worst time for us to have to stop playing and have some time off. We really could have kept going as a group but it’s important that we take that time out to be fresh for the new challenges and the new journey that is ahead of us.”
Never one to enjoy sitting out the action at the best of times, Jones admits that he found it difficult to shut off completely during his leave period.
“I did make sure that I had a complete two weeks of nothing to recharge the batteries” he explained.
“I’d be the first to admit that I don’t enjoy it so I managed to start training two weeks before coming back in, to give me a chance to get up to speed quicker.
“I didn’t completely forget about work while I’ve been away from here. I’ve been in close contact with Steve throughout the off-season and I came into to see him when we got back from Australia before I went on holiday, to make sure I kept my ear to the ground if you like.
“It’s been difficult not to show my face around here too much over the summer, I want to be in and around the camp and I want to be preparing for another big season with the Ospreys but like the other internationals I was under orders to take time out! I think I got the balance right though.”
With the first game of the Ospreys’ PRO12 title defence now just five weeks away, Jones acknowledged the fantastic response from supporters to the season membership packages that has seen a record number sign up to back the cause this season, saying that it was up to the team to match that response on the field:
“First and foremost, the backing that the fans have shown to the team through season-ticket sales is a huge boost for the players before we even step foot out onto the pitch. Knowing that we’ve got such a big fanbase, with the highest ever season-ticket numbers, shows that the public are behind us and it’s up to us as a team now to back up last year with actions and the type of performances we had at the end of last season. We’re all looking forward to playing in front of big crowds week in, week out, it makes a huge difference to us.”
When asked what the priority is for the coming season Jones is quick to stress that for him, as is the case for the rest of the squad, the priority is to perform at the highest level for their region:
“Speaking for myself, first and foremost my priority is to perform well for the Ospreys” he insisted.
“I’ve got a responsibility to the region and to the team to stay focussed on what we do here, and I realise that without reaching my full potential here then I won’t get opportunities elsewhere. The Ospreys are the sole focus for me, as it should be for everyone, and anything else is a bonus.
“To get that silverware in May at the end of what had been an up and down season was a reward for everyone who dug in and fought hard for the region, on and off the pitch, and we should be all the better for that as a team this year. Some of the young boys have matured over the last year and now know what it takes to win the PRO12 which can only help moving forward. They’ve also tasted Europe and will know what to expect when that comes around later in the season. We’re excited about where we are. We know there are big challenges ahead as there every year, but we are looking forward to them.”