Jones returns 'home' - but is plotting Ospreys' downfall
ON the weekend the clocks go back, a familiar face from the past will return to the Liberty, in charge of a regional team again and looking forward to revisiting the scene of some of his most memorable rugby moments.
Northampton's matchday programme did a piece on Lyn Jones last weekend, headlined A Man From History and reminding readers that no Ospreys head coach had enjoyed more success than the ex-Neath flanker.
Of course, it all ended abruptly for Jones at the Liberty in the credit-crunch year of 2008, but, to his lasting credit, he didn't allow his career to dip into recession, with the ex-Wales man widely praised for his work at London Welsh and now winning increasing plaudits for his efforts at the Dragons.
But the Ospreys is still his home region and it would be understandable if there was an element of wistfulness when he steps into the Liberty Stadium tomorrow evening, thoughts about what might have been.
Publicly, though, Jones leaves sentiment to others.
There has been no calendar in the kitchen at home with October 25 circled in red.
But was the Ospreys match the first one he looked for when the Pro12 fixtures for the season were released?
"No, it wasn't," came the reply.
"The first fixture I looked for was the very first match we had, to see who we were up against at the start of the season.
"I am looking forward to going to the Liberty because I haven't been there for many years. Life moves on, nothing stands still and things evolve at lots of clubs."
Memories are bound to come flashing back, though, when Cwmavon's finest takes his place in the stand: the late, late Dan Hipkiss try that condemned the Ospreys to an agonising defeat by Leicester in the Heineken Cup in 2005; the nerveless James Hook conversion that secured a last-minute success against Sale a year later; the Boxing Day 50-pointer against the Scarlets; the 48-17 demolition of Ulster in the Heineken Cup; the trophies in 2005, 2007 and 2008.
Gavin Henson said after Jones's departure from the Liberty in 2008: "The Ospreys meant the world to him."
So how will the now Dragons director of rugby feel on his return?
"What's nice are the memories of starting regional rugby at the Ospreys in 2003," he said. "It was an exciting time and there was an ambition to want to make the game here bigger and better.
"It helped us pool our resources and get some respect within the Celtic League with Scarlets winning it in the first season and Ospreys a year later.
"The game has developed since and regional rugby has been an outstanding success in providing the players to allow Wales to rule the Six Nations."
That said, the Ospreys know they can't allow themselves to get caught up in any nostalgia-fest over their old coach.
Steve Tandy and Gruff Rees helped deliver a Pro12 title the campaign before last and Chris Gibbes arrived from New Zealand with a big reputation.
There are a number of players who were at the Liberty when Jones was there, but put it in perspective: many of the Ospreys' youngsters will know little of the region's former coach and his penchant for the unorthodox.
Tom Habberfield and Eli Walker, for instance, were only 11 when Jones first took charge of the Ospreys.
Gibbes said: "Lyn's obviously had a massive influence on Ospreys rugby over the time he was here, but this is a new era, a different team, a different management and a different focus.
"He's doing a great job with the Dragons. But we are focused on what we are about here."
Jones couldn't resist the chance to try to mess with Osprey minds after the three defeats in a row the Pro12 champions have suffered in recent weeks.
"It's going to be interesting to see how they bounce back," he said. "They do a lot of talking privately about where they are, and they have gone three games without victory and just the one try.
"It will be interesting to see what state they are in mentally and I expect a big opening 15 minutes from them. It's whether we can weather that storm."
Victory would be sweet against his old employers. But the Ospreys are not renowned for giving much away at home, notwithstanding two recent setbacks. Jones will know all that.
Anything his side pick up tomorrow will have to be earned.