Jones to lead Wales in North America
May 11, 2009
Ryan Jones will skipper Wales in Canada and the USA © Getty Images
Ryan Jones will captain Wales on their tour of Canada and the USA, the Ospreys flanker taking charge of a squad that could contain seven uncapped players depending on the Magners League fate of the Ospreys and Scarlets.
Jones will also be watching the outcome of Munster flanker Alan Quinlan's upcoming disciplinary hearing however, with a place on the British and Irish Lions tour potentially up for grabs. Most bets are currently on England's Tom Croft replacing Quinlan should he be banned for an alleged gouge but Jones' leadership qualities may see him enter the frame.
"I would like to thank my family, friends and fiancee, who have been superb the last few weeks," said Jones about his recent Lions disappointment. "I want it (Lions tour) to be about the boys who are going on that tour. I've got some great friends going, and I want it to be positive for them and an experience they will treasure. I wish them all the very best. You deal with those disappointments and you move on, simple as that. It's gone now."
Jones was summoned for Lions duty in 2005 after touring America with Wales, and is aware that going on tour and staying match fit could stand him in good stead should the Lions suffer any more back-row casualties.
"The big concern is if you weren't on this (Wales) tour, you would go and sit on a beach somewhere with a couple of beers, have a bit too much to eat, and then if the call did come you wouldn't be in a fit state to go anyway," he said. "For everyone who is in and around the frame, it is important they stay fit, keen and healthy, and if the call does come you go and enjoy it. I am looking forward to going to Canada and America and playing. Captaining the squad is a role I thoroughly enjoy."
Caretaker coach Robin McBryde, who takes charge due to Warren Gatland, Shaun Edwards and Rob Howley being away with the Lions, has selected a 32 man squad that will be cut depending on which region is forced in to a Heineken Cup play-off against an Italian side. The play-off is scheduled for the same day as the first Test against Canada in Toronto so Wales will have to do without either their Scarlets or Dragons contingent.
The Ospreys have three uncapped players in fullback Gareth Owen, centre Jonathan Spratt and prop Craig Mitchell, but there is no place for Gavin Henson, casting further doubt on his potential availability for the Lions tour. A sizeable Cardiff Blues' contingent includes wing Chris Czekaj, who was last capped on tour in Australia in 2007 before breaking his leg. Blues' uncapped wing Richard Mustoe and back-row Sam Warburton also earn call-ups while there is a recall for their in-form hooker Gareth Williams.
The Dragons and Scarlets provide several uncapped players with the Dragons providing full-back Jason Tovey, plus flankers Dan Lydiate and Lewis Evans and the Scarlets centre Jon Davies and forwards Josh Turnbull and Rob McCusker. There is no place however for tight-head prop and Six Nations squad member Rhys Thomas, who is set to move from the Dragons to the Scarlets at the end-of-the-season.
"We have a duty to continue with the professionalism, dedication and ruthlessness this Wales squad has shown over the past two seasons on this tour," said McBryde. "We have approached the task of selecting the right blend of youth and experience with great pride and with one eye on the future, but a clear focus on the task ahead.
"With a view to the tighthead (prop) position, we are trying to create some strength in depth. It's tough on Rhys, but I have spoken to him and it is by no means a shut door on him. He's got new challenges ahead next season at the Scarlets, and I am sure he is relishing that. There are areas he needs to work on. He is aware of those, and I am sure he will bounce back into contention."
Wales squad for Tests with Canada on May 30 and the USA on June 6:
Backs: J Tovey (Newport Gwent Dragons), G Owen (Ospreys), C Czekaj (Cardiff Blues), T James (Cardiff Blues), R Mustoe (Cardiff Blues), M Jones (Scarlets), J Davies (Scarlets), J Spratt (Ospreys), J Hook (Ospreys), A Bishop (Ospreys), N Robinson (Cardiff Blues), D Biggar (Ospreys), G Cooper (Gloucester), D Peel (Sale Sharks)
Forwards: D Jones (Ospreys), C Mitchell (Ospreys), R Hibbard (Ospreys), G Williams (Cardiff Blues), J Yapp (Cardiff Blues), E Lewis-Roberts (Sale Sharks), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), I Gough (Ospreys), D Jones (Cardiff Blues), L Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), D Jones (Scarlets), R Sowden-Taylor (Cardiff Blues), R Jones (Ospreys, capt), L Evans (Newport Gwent Dragons), R McCusker (Scarlets), J Turnbull (Scarlets), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues), D Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons)