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Jones: pride at the heart of Ospreys’ triumph

Guinness PRO12 Editor

22 Aug 2012

Plenty of rugby players speak of their pride in their shirt but in Ospreys captain Alun Wyn Jones’ case he means it more than most.


To celebrate their tenth season, the RaboDirect PRO12 team have designed a new all-black home shirt featuring the names of all 77 clubs in the region's catchment area.

It may seem at odds with a club that was once labelled the ‘Galacticos’ of rugby, but the bonds between the community and the Ospreys have never been stronger.

The astonishing 31-30 RaboDirect PRO12 Grand Final defeat of Leinster has seen a surge in season ticket applications at the Liberty Stadium with 9,000 sold and counting.

And that connection with their fanbase Jones believes will be crucial to sustaining their defence of their title.

“We have always been a traditional rugby club, it’s people’s perceptions that were the problem but that’s behind us now,” he said. 

“The culture you have seen on the field has been echoed off the field and what was said to me earlier is that we are now playing for the jersey.

“I like to think we have always done that but I think that is now coming out in our performances now and it means a lot to all the 77 clubs to have their names on our shirts now.

“There’s always that weight of expectation and that will increase the more trophies we win. It means a lot to a lot of people because season tickets have gone up a considerable amount.

“People are talking with their feet and their hard-earned cash and hopefully we can represent that in our performances.”

Lock Jones is just one a handful of survivors from the club’s inception with Shane Williams and Paul James becoming the latest of the old guard to depart.

In total head ccoach Steve Tandy lost 11 players from the squad that finished second behind Leinster in the regular season with 71 points with only two new faces arriving – one of which, Jonathan Spratt, is a  former Osprey.

However the champions had to do without the bulk of their international contingent last season and Jones admits sadness at seeing former colleagues depart is tempered by the need for the club to continually evolve.  

“First and foremost I had a lot of friends that were around for the inception of regional rugby when Neath and Swansea came together,” he added.

“People move on whether it is for culture, money or for their own personal reasons. They move on and you have to deal with the now.

“I think seeing the players that have gone, you probably saw the way we started playing last year was a bit more forward dominated and probably the backs did not get as much ball as they wanted.

“I think you will see a bit more balance to our game this year with the experience that those young backs have got.”

While the Ospreys’ fourth title – in all guises of the competition – made them the format’s most successful ever team, it was arguably their most impressive triumph to date.

During the 2005, 2007 and 2010, the Ospreys had at their disposal the Galacticos – the core of Wales’ 2005 and 2008 Grand Slam winning sides – while this year they were far more reliant on academy products rather than established stars.

If that was not enough, they also had to contend with a coaching change midway through the season with Tandy taking over from Sean Holley in February and Jones admits the scale of their accomplishment is still sinking in.

“Immediately after that final whistle there was a bit disbelief,” he added. “There was a weight off our shoulders just getting to the final and it was a bit surreal given the lull we had after Christmas given the guys coming back from the World Cup and the youngsters who had done so well to get us into the top four pre Christmas.

“It was surreal and then you had the comings and goings with coaches and players that were being announced. So to get there and to do it in the manner we did especially in the semi-final and then dig in in the final is testament to Steve taking the mantle and the players reacting to that to work together.”