Monday 23 October 2017

Welsh stalwart Jones believes Ireland's central planning hands Munster advantage

Alun Wyn Jones
Alun Wyn Jones
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

IT IS often their main bugbear, but the Player Management Scheme inflicted on the Irish provincial coaches is a serious asset, according to Ospreys captain Alun-Wyn Jones.

Joe Schmidt, Tony McGahan and Brian McLaughlin are often forced to work with their second strings at different points of the season in an attempt to keep the internationals fresh for their Ireland commitments, but Jones (pictured) reckons it's the provinces who are benefiting most from the system.

In contrast, the Welsh players are forced into combat more often and, Jones (26) believes, are operating at a lower level as a result.

"There are two different models. The Irish are centrally contracted, but in Wales we are not. That's the obvious difference -- there are so many games these days that you can't play them all," the Lions lock told the Irish Independent.

"Irish players are looked after by Ireland and play well for the regions, whereas we're employed by the regions and you can't maintain it through both. It is the amount of games you play rather than who you play.

"A player plays 30 games in a season, you probably play 80pc of them at 70pc, and 20pc fresh and without niggles. It would be interesting to see what the games would be like if you had much more of your players playing at 95pc.

"Because they are managed so well for Ireland, they are fresh for the provinces. Look at Leinster, they have two squads -- a bit like we had at the Ospreys. It seems to work well for them, when their internationals are being rested for Ireland."

Tonight, the Ospreys have a chance for a little revenge over their old foes Munster in the RaboDirect Pro12 semi-final, who beat them at this stage last season at Thomond Park.

At that stage, the Swansea-based region must have been sick of the sight of McGahan's men, who beat them four times out of five, but this year they have done the double and are hopeful of making it three out of three at the Liberty Stadium.

"It is funny, we went to Thomond last year and put a spirited performance in and rallied in the latter stages, keeping the last phase going for around six minutes, but we couldn't score," Jones said.

"Now the tides are turned. We lost to them four out of five times last year, but this year it is reversed -- we've beaten them twice and they are coming here.

"They will always have the tag from what they have achieved in the Heineken Cup and I don't think their stock has waned -- you don't forget that because it is relatively recent history and you can't take them for granted. There's been a lot of transition in Welsh rugby and in this region, and a lot of the work that went in -- the dividends are paying off.

"Both teams will be at full strength -- with Munster being out of the Heineken Cup as well, they have nothing to hold back for, like ourselves."

For a club about to lose a host of players -- including Shane Williams and Tommy Bowe -- as part of the Welsh exodus and the regions' cost-cutting, silverware is a priority.

"The quality of player we have had here, a lot of guys who have been the fabric of this team are now moving on. The players remaining want to give them a bit of silverware to move on with," Jones added.

RaboDirect, the straight talking savings bank, are proud sponsors of the RaboDirect PRO12. For more information visit www.RaboDirect.ie

Irish Independent

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