As the international contingent gear up for a return to regional action following the conclusion of the Six Nations championship, Ospreys skipper Alun Wyn Jones has told his colleagues that they need to work hard to ensure an easier reintegration to the squad.
Speaking at the end of his first full training session back at Llandarcy Academy of Sport, Jones said that the returning players were looking forward to helping the Ospreys build on the good work done at the region while they’ve been away. He explained:
“We’re coming back off a mixed Six Nations for Wales, to an Ospreys that have been doing really well, sitting in second place at the moment, nine points adrift from Munster. There’s enough games left for us to still make a push to get to the top, especially with them still to come to the Liberty.
“All the players are back now and raring to go, a few have been in earlier than others who may have had a little bit of time off, but I think that everyone is feeling good and is really up for the challenges of the next six weeks and our defence of the Magners. It’s going to be an interesting period for the Ospreys.
“I think most people are entirely aware of the need to focus on the job in hand. You wouldn’t get to be fortunate enough to play for Wales if you didn’t understand that, and didn’t perform for the Ospreys. People have got to get on with it, and put their effort in the right direction. It can be easy to say it, but the reality is the harder you work, the more studious you are when you get back here, the easier it is to integrate.”
Jones stressed that it was impossible to underestimate the work done by the core group of players at the region over the last two months, pointing out that they have set the highest possible standard for the internationals to live up to:
“The squad has done fantastic, definitely, and it’s because of them we are second in the league” he said.
“If you look at last year, results during the Six Nations weren’t great but this time around they’ve done some excellent work, the young players are a year older and we starting to develop strength in depth. The wins they’ve had and the performances they’ve put in have set the standards and it’s down to the boys coming back to live up to those standards.”
Looking beyond this weekend’s game in Edinburgh, with two massive home games remaining at the Liberty Stadium, Jones is hoping to see crowds to match:
“A big derby against the Blues, is always something to get the fans excited and this time it will be even more so with both of us desperate for a win to maybe secure that play-off place. Then it’s the fourth time we’ve played Munster this season, it may not be the last, so it’s like a test series within a league if you like, and the intensity is as high as any international. There’s a few tasty fixtures that will hopefully see big crowds and a great atmosphere, with the prize being bigger than just points, it will allow is to keep alive our hopes of defending the Magners League.”