Ospreys coach: Alun Wyn still last off the training pitch

Ospreys head coach Toby Booth doesn’t expect Alun Wyn Jones’ omission from the Wales captaincy to affect the veteran lock after it was confirmed that Dan Biggar will captain the national team during the tour of South Africa.

Biggar has retained the captaincy, after leading the team during the recent Six Nations campaign, where Wales won just one of their five matches.

This is despite that Jones returned from a shoulder injury to win his 150th Test cap for Wales in the final game against Italy.

The 36-year-old lock has captained Wales since 2017, leading his country to Six Nations titles in 2019 and 2021, but has played only three games for the Ospreys since recovering from the shoulder injury he suffered against New Zealand last October.

When asked during an online media conference whether the lack of a captain’s armband would have any positive or negative impact on the veteran, the answer was simple for Ospreys coach Booth.

“No, not really,” Booth answered. “Alun Wyn sets his own standards in leadership, irrespective of having an armband or not. He just leads by example. He will still talk on what needs to be talked on, so I don’t think that will influence him too much.

“If it gives him the mental capacity to focus on his own game, then I understand that. But it won’t change him. It won’t change what he does, how he acts and he will do what Alun Wyn Jones does for sure.”

As he endured an injury-hit 2021, there are questions over whether Jones has enough left in him to continue playing through to next year’s World Cup in France.

Wales have been drawn in Pool C for the tournament, alongside Australia, Fiji and Georgia.

“I don’t see why not. It’s all well and good a coach saying that about his player, but he was the last player off the training pitch today,” Booth said. “He was doing extra tackles, extra passing, extra preparation to get his game as good as he can get it.

“After a long time out and probably a lot of scrutiny, and I understand that as it comes with the territory, all he can do is deliver on what he prepares. He is a model around that and he sets the tone for the youngsters. As a result, I have no doubt that he will get back to the levels that he demands of himself.”

The Ospreys will face the Vodacom Bulls in a crucial final-round Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash for both teams.

Despite missing out on a place in the URC playoffs, Ospreys will still be playing to top the Welsh Shield and secure a place in next season’s European Cup.

“There is something tangible at the end of it. From a selfish point of view, without being disrespectful to the Scarlets, it’s something tangible that makes sense for the effort they point in at training throughout the year.

“My real sentiment is for the players themselves and the effort of all the staff here. We have also been without fans for a long time, to have something to celebrate for the fans will be great.

“They are very resembling of a lot of South African teams,” Booth added on what he expects from the Bulls. “Very physical, strong up front, collision based and field-position based. They have a good kicking game and if you let their back three have it on their terms in broken field, they can hurt you. We personally experienced that from the Stormers. We are expecting something like that.

“The good thing for us is that we are at home with a crowd and we haven’t had to travel. But it is going to be a massive arm wrestle.”

Photo: BackpagePix

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Dylan Jack