By Paul Jones
Alun Wyn Jones may be poised to become the most capped rugby player in history – but his first plan is to impress his new boss.
The Wales captain is scheduled to pass Richie McCaw’s mark of 148 international caps this autumn, but his more immediate aim is to show new Ospreys coach Toby Booth the true meaning of staying power.
Jones has been involved in his 18th senior pre-season routine with the Ospreys in recent days, but his first since Booth became head coach and the former London Irish chief says: “He’s at the start of his career for me.
“The way he put it to me was, ‘this is my first pre-season with you’ and that tells you something about Alun Wyn.
“I had a lot of conversations with him in pre-season. He’s been excellent and exactly what I hoped he would be.”
Asked if Jones was chomping at the bit to get back on the field, Booth added: “I don’t think he knows any other way. The group – not just Alun Wyn – has been unbelievably good in the energy they’ve brought. There is a decent vibe which is great and gives us something to kick on from.
“The players are excited to get going as I don’t think there has ever been this much of a gap for anybody. It will be interesting to see how this long global season pans out, but this break has certainly helped some players’ longevity, that’s for sure.”
The coronavirus pandemic has meant the 34-year-old Jones has had the chance to rest his body after last year’s World Cup in Japan was quickly followed by the 2020 Six Nations.
The second row still is still seen by Wales coach Wayne Pivac as the man to lead his country this season and if fit he will surely make a fourth British & Irish Lions tour in South Africa next summer.
Before that and Wales duty later this year, his first priority is domestic rugby with the Ospreys when Guinness PRO14 action returns on August 21.
While Jones settles into the old routine, Booth is determined to shake things up in his new job, at a region where success has become a fading memory.
The 50-year-old holds vast Premiership experience in England following four years as director of rugby at London Irish and seven years as first team coach at Bath, but this is his first stint working in Wales.
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“We’re embarking on the new Ospreys, that involves new ideas, styles of play and ingraining of habits,” he said.
“They can expect me to push youth hard and a team that works hard.
“There has been no lack of effort in this group. It’s important to represent the area that you are from and hopefully the game that we play will reflect that.
“The Welsh rugby I grew up watching had an intent to be positive and score tries. Our intentions will be to do that.
“It takes a bit of time, understanding and embedding. Ultimately, we want to be positive. We know our international players are going to disappear in October so we have to make sure we’re as robust as possible.”
The Ospreys are currently bottom of Pro14 Conference A and with just two victories this season from 13 league matches. They also suffered six defeats in the Heineken Champions Cup pool stage.
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But history – even the recent sort – holds little interest for Booth, who is looking to the future and added: “We don’t need to be dragging that anchor along with us, we need to try to create something new.
“I’m respectful of the good and the bad times from an Ospreys point of view but the situation is simple. I started work on July 1 and from July 1 forward is where I put my focus.
“It’s also unfair to compare a team that had X amount of internationals back then to what it has now. That’s the reality.”