Tandy: Lion king Jones will inspire Ospreys at Thomond
There was a time when welcoming Paul O'Connell back from injury would give the Munster dressing-room a mindset-altering lift, and the Ospreys are hoping for something similar when Alun-Wyn Jones comes back into the fold for their Guinness PRO12 semi-final at Thomond Park tomorrow.
The Wales captain's injury has left a major leadership void in the Swansea-based region's leadership corps in recent weeks as they closed out their regular-season campaign in less than impressive style.
They finished fourth despite a heavy final-day defeat to the Scarlets, but welcome Jones back to their engine room just at the right time.
And head coach Steve Tandy is hoping the man who led the Lions to their third-Test win in Australia four years ago can hit the ground running and inspire those around him tomorrow.
"He is the hub of what we do as Ospreys," he said. "He is desperate to represent the Ospreys shirt and that is the mark of the man.
"Even when injured, he is around the training environment, offering his services in any way possible.
"You see him spending time with Rory Thornton, a young kid who is coming through. He shows him how to manage going into international camps and how to do things week-in, week-out.
"He's just a colossus of a man, a colossus of a human being. He's the total package.
"It's amazing that he's come through this injury as he has, because most other rugby players wouldn't be anywhere near making a return to rugby at this point. He just does a huge amount away from the environment in terms of looking after himself.
"He is a natural leader and everyone will follow him. Having played with him and coached him, I feel he's an exceptional captain. We can't wait to get him back in our environment."
Although Tandy acknowledges that his skipper may struggle with the pace, he expects his presence to lift those around him.
"He'll be blowing, but he's not going to lack energy. Just having him around you can feel more of a spark.
"He just brings more of an edge, intensity and focus to our work," he said.
"The danger is that people will think just because Alun Wyn is back it will solve all our problems. It doesn't.
"All the other players will have to pull their weight and do their jobs, because he can't go to Munster on his own.
"Without him for much of the season, the boys delivered. So it isn't going to be a one-man band. That said, he's doing to help us with our leadership and resolve. He's an unbelievable player."