Ospreys handed Alun Wyn Jones boost
OSPREYS assistant coach Gruff Rees insists the return of skipper Alun Wyn Jones has given the region a major lift ahead of tomorrow's trip to Connacht (7.45).
The Wales and British Lions lock returned from injury to play the final 31 minutes of last weekend's superb win over league leaders Ulster.
He was then called up to Rob Howley's Six Nations squad before being released back to his region yesterday.
Jones is likely to start tomorrow as Steve Tandy's side chase a sixth straight win in the RaboDirect Pro12.
And Rees insists the 27-year-old's experience will prove invaluable as the Ospreys remain without other international stars.
"He and James King have been released to us and we're just delighted to have them in the group because they give us a bit of a spirt," said Rees.
"Whether we're playing a top-end European game or in the RaboDirect, Alun Wyn is Alun Wyn — he gives 100 per cent.
"He's been throwing himself around tackles in training and he's the type of leader that epitomises what we're about.
"Ian Evans has stepped up after an even longer time out, they're durable these guys.
"They are mentally hardened, they know what's expected of them at every level, but especially in the top-end games and they thrive on that."
Jones's outing at Ravenhill was his first since injuring his shoulder at the start of Wales's autumn Test campaign and he helped consign Ulster to only their second league defeat of the season.
"He's a galvaniser, he's a leader," added Rees. "You don't want to be just blooding youngsters on youngsters, there's got to be some substance to what you do.
"But there's not just Alun Wyn, we've got people who are maybe third or fourth year pros and have played 30 or 40 games. We have that degree of squad strength."
The Ospreys sit fourth in the table, a point ahead of the Scarlets, with eight games left before the play-off places are decided.
"We are in a healthy position because we've won points that people may well have written off," added Rees.
"We've got eight games left, five are tricky away games, so we know our run of fixtures isn't as kind as others."