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Page last updated at 15:57 GMT, Monday, 31 March 2008 16:57 UK

Jones has rugby world at his feet

By Gareth Roberts

Ryan Jones has the rugby world at his feet, but as he contemplates the possibility of adding the EDF and Heineken Cups to the Grand Slam he lifted with Wales the Ospreys captain can look back on less certain and even turbulent times.

Wales captain Ryan Jones celebrates the Triple Crown in Dublin
Ryan Jones celebrates the Triple Crown in Dublin

A repeat of shoulder trouble kept Jones out of the World Cup, but after storming back into action in January in his first foray into captaincy at the Ospreys, he then found himself doing the same job with Wales.

But if Jones' leadership qualities were obvious to Ospreys coach Lyn Jones and Wales boss Warren Gatland, they were not so clear to the man who introduced a young Jones to the workings of the back-row.

Jones is now tipped by many as the likely Lions captain to South Africa in 2009 but former Celtic Warriors coach Lynn Howells says the player was not obvious captaincy material when he joined them.

Howells, now director of rugby at Doncaster, says: "Looking back to when Ryan joined the Warriors he seemed anything but captaincy material.

"There again, he didn't need to be a leader with the likes of Gareth Thomas and Neil Jenkins in the side. Ryan was a young kid and could happily stay in the background with leaders such as that in the camp."

Ryan was a loose type of lock forward and I thought he'd be better off in the back-row. He was pretty open minded and was happy to give it a go

Lynn Howells

Jones arrived at the Warriors from Bridgend, where he had begun to establish himself in the second-row.

But Howells saw a more glamorous future ahead for the former Bristol City under-14s' goal-keeper.

"Ryan was a loose type of lock forward and I thought he'd be better off in the back-row," said Howells.

"Ryan is pretty open minded about rugby and was happy to give it a go. He didn't need to lose any weight, but he still lost a few kilos.

"But if his potential as a future captain wasn't obvious at the time, his playing ability was. He had a good attitude too - he was always willing to learn and was a good reader of the game.

"I don't know if he would have achieved the things he has if he'd stayed in the second-row, but no-one can argue with the status he now has in the game."

The situation has made things difficult for me, but it's great to see Ryan playing well. He's a highly respected guy

Gareth Delve
That status means Jones the stifling of his Gloucester rival Gareth Delve's Wales ambitions.

but while Delve is determined to claim his place in the Wales back-row and stake his own claim to a Lions jersey in 2009, he takes nothing away from Jones.

"I told Ryan after the Six Nations that he led the team really well. He came through on the field with some massive performances, particularly against Ireland and France," said Delve.

"The situation has made things difficult for me, but it's great to see Ryan playing well. He's a highly respected guy."

If the Ospreys beat Saracens on Sunday and Gloucester beat Munster a day earlier, the two teams will meet again in the semi-finals after two epic European pool clashes that fell in favour of the home side.




see also
Ospreys the team to fear - Jones
31 Mar 08 |  Ospreys
Ospreys 32-7 Ulster
28 Mar 08 |  Welsh
Ospreys 30-3 Saracens
22 Mar 08 |  Rugby Union
BBC Sport Wales coverage
07 Aug 07 |  Wales
Magners Celtic League
11 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
Heineken Cup
11 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
European Challenge Cup
11 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
Anglo-Welsh Cup
11 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
WRU Challenge Cup archive
12 Jul 06 |  Welsh
Welsh Premiership
11 Apr 07 |  Welsh
Rugby union positions guide
05 Feb 07 |  Laws & Equipment


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