Jones excited by Heineken pressure
January 14, 2010
Ospreys skipper Ryan Jones is expecting a rough ride © Getty Images
Ospreys skipper Ryan Jones is under no illusions about the task that awaits his side in their vital Heineken Cup meeting with Clermont Auvergne on Saturday.
The Welsh region travel to the Stade Marcel Michelin in pole position in Pool 3 after back-to-back bonus-point wins over Viadana, but face a Clermont side in ominous form.
Their first-half blast to secure a bonus-point win over Leicester in round three remains one of the most impressive performances in the tournament this season and Jones is all too aware that his side need to take something away from France to set up a nerve-jangling showdown with Leicester in the final round.
"We are at crunch time now, and you can't fail to be excited about it," he said. "We've worked hard to put ourselves in a good position after four rounds of the tournament, but this is where the hard work really starts.
"If we don't hit the right performance levels in the final two fixtures this month, then the results we secured in October and December won't count for anything. It is fantastic to be involved in big games like these for the region, and everyone in the squad is looking forward to them.
"We realise that we face a tough challenge, but we have been working hard to build towards January as we always knew that this was the decisive month in terms of progression to the next stage."
Christmas victories over the Scarlets and Blues in the Magners League hinted at a purple patch of form, but past European failures will hang heavy over the squad as they pursue a third successive quarter-final appearance. With Clermont and Leicester both set to meet Viadana in the coming weeks, their four-point cushion will count for nothing unless they capitalise in France and then at home to the Tigers.
"We've improved throughout the season week on week, but we are under no illusions about where we are right now," Jones said. "We realise that we still have some way to go if we are going to finish off the job. We go out to Clermont, knowing that we have to be professional out there and do our job properly to ensure that we bring something back with us. If we can do that, it will then set up the Leicester game to be something special."
The latest Week in Pictures takes in a fiery East Midlands derby and all the action from the Aviva Premiership and Top 14
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton