Ospreys will relish chance to silence Thomond roar -- James
Published 10/12/2010 | 05:00
Being arguably Wales' best player of a disappointing November series is probably an idle boast, but Ospreys prop Paul James is hoping to continue his rich vein of form on his return to Heineken Cup duty against Munster on Sunday.
However, after the humbling experience of losing 43-9 in an incredible quarter-final two seasons ago, the Neath-born 28-year-old knows that they must conquer the Thomond Park fortress which is so fully exploited in this competition by the two-time champions.
"Apart from Munster being very strong at home, they have a great fan base out there," said James. "There are flags everywhere, the crowd is buzzing and it's just experience to run out there.
"We don't have a problem with that because a lot of these players have played in bigger arenas and bigger places and at the end of the day it's just another game. We have to know our roles, get them right, be clinical and hopefully we will come away with a win. A lot of the players here thrive on the big stage and in the big arenas. The buzz is great out there because the crowd boo you and it's just what being a rugby player is all about."
Memories of that quarter-final slaughter still linger in the Welsh camp.
"Against teams like Munster, if you don't perform and give them opportunities they will take them," he said. "That day they were clinical and we weren't. They scored the points and we didn't. It really was that simple. You do need experience out there and we have a good mix of that and youngsters coming through. They are a great team with great players, but we can only show them so much respect.
"We have to get stuck in and it all starts up front. We can then create some space for the boys behind to have a run. Individually, every Munster player always fronts up. The forward pack never take a backward step and that gives their backs a bit of a buzz too. But the pack is a great strength of theirs."
James' international resurrection in 2009 -- bridging a six-year gap since his debut -- has continued into this year and Warren Gatland has hailed his versatility.
"It has helped me because at international level you need a prop who can play both sides," said James. "Last year, Gats asked me to play tighthead and I just said I will step up for that and have a crack at it. That was what really got me back into the Wales squad.
"It was tough. If you have always played loose-head switching to tight-head is like being right-handed, but trying to write left-handed. Ask a tight-head and they will probably tell you there is nothing to it, but as a loose-head it is very hard."