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Jones Have More Than One Eye On Title

7th April 2007 By Munster Rugby

Jones Have More Than One Eye On Title

They may not be shouting it out from the rooftop of the Liberty Stadium, but the Ospreys will take on the dethroned kings of Europe with their league ambition still burning bright writes Robert Lloyd in the South Wales Evening Post.

.Head coach Lyn Jones was quick to play down talk of a glittering double at the region’s media conference this week, preferring to talk up a demanding run-in that sees them lock horns with four of this season’s Heineken Cup quarter-finalists in the next three weeks.
The Ospreys face a wounded Munster in Swansea tomorrow, Leicester in the EDF Cup final at Twickenham eight days later, then prepare for dates with the Scarlets and a potential title showdown with leaders Leinster at the Liberty on April 27.

It is a schedule that will define the campaign for Jones, who must have cast a couple of rueful glances across the Loughor Bridge to a packed Stradey Park last Friday night, pondering what might have been. In that emphatic EDF Cup semi-final win over the Blues at the Millennium Stadium a couple of weeks ago, the Ospreys looked as well-equipped as any of the quarter-finalists on European parade last weekend.

A pack bristling with intensity and aggression, confident play-makers at half-back and lightning finishers out wide.

Yet Europe is all about seizing the moment and after missing some golden opportunities to emerge from their pool, Jones and his squad knows they cannot afford similar lapses over the next couple of weeks.

“It would be nice to think we could do something special in the Magners League,” said lock Alun Wyn Jones, who is set to start in a side unbeaten in all competitions since early January. “We were all bitterly disappointed not to have gone through in Europe after just one loss in our pool.

“Perhaps we weren’t as clinical as we could have been, the odd pass here or there which didn’t go our way. We definitely had the potential to make strides into the latter parts of the competition. But there are still a lot of possibilities with the Ospreys this season.

“At the moment there are a few points between us and Leinster at the top so we can’t look too far in advance. But after Europe, it would be a nice consolation if we can get silverware in either the EDF or Magners and beating Munster will be a big stride for us in the league.”

For Jones, a winner’s medal of any sort would put a silvery sheen on a season that will live long in the memory. The 21-year-old’s emergence as a dynamic second row of genuine international quality, was one of the few pluses to emerge from Wales’s troubled Six Nations campaign.

Jones, who started in every game for Wales during the championship, still hasn’t been told whether he will be touring Australia with Gareth Jenkins’s squad next month. Jenkins is to leave a number of his senior internationals at home and may opt to do the same with Jones, easing the workload on the Swansea University law student and allowing him a summer of conditioning ahead of the World Cup in the autumn.

“If I have a summer of pre-season then fine, if I go to Australia to get more experience then that is fine as well. It is up to Gareth and I will do whatever I am asked to do,” he added. “People say that I am in possession of the jersey at the moment, but I don’t see it that way. I am not in possession of anything, what I have achieved has gone now and it is time to achieve it all over again.

“I am certainly not going to step off the gas with my work ethic and endeavour.”

And there will be no easing up when Munster roll into town tomorrow, regardless of what starting XV Declan Kidney chooses to take the field.

“Munster are a rugby institution with a big rugby culture,” he said.”They are always going to be a big challenge and we would have prepared the same this week had they won against the Scarlets. Whatever side they put out we know we are going to have to play well to come away with a win.

“This is a great opportunity for us to show that we are a bright light in this Magners competition.”

(Robert Lyoyd)


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