Jones eyes winning formula
Ospreys captain strives for better Cup performances
Last Updated: October 5, 2012 8:12am
Alun Wyn Jones: Looking for answers
Alun Wyn Jones, the Ospreys captain, admits his side need to find the answer to the "million dollar question" of why they have failed to make an impact on the Heineken Cup.
Traditionally, the Welsh region have been viewed as the principality's strongest hope of recording a first Heineken Cup success, but they have yet to advance beyond the quarter-final stage.
Those last-eight exits came at a time when the likes of Mike Phillips, James Hook and Lee Byrne were plying their trade for the Liberty Stadium side.
"The million dollar question is what do we need to do? "
Alun Wyn Jones Quotes of the week
The playing resources at the Ospreys, as well as regional rivals the Newport Gwent Dragons, Cardiff Blues and Scarlets have grown increasingly thin in recent seasons, and the introduction of a £3.5million salary cap will do little to prevent the talent moving out of Wales to cash-rich clubs in France.
However, there is plenty of exciting young talent coming through, with the likes of flanker Justin Tipuric and centre Ashley Beck helping the Ospreys defeat European champions Leinster to secure the RaboDirect Pro12 title last season.
That success was a fourth title for the Ospreys, and Jones admits they need to learn how to transfer those performances into success in Europe.
The Wales lock said: "We have won the RaboDirect Pro12 four times, twice beating Leinster in the final at the RDS, so we know we can do well against teams of calibre. We drew with Leicester a few years ago and we played Biarritz in the quarter-finals in Europe and lost by a point, it has been a case of so near yet so far.
"The million dollar question is what do we need to do? We are successful in the RaboDirect Pro12 and we do the right things at the right time.
"But we have not done it in the Heineken Cup, and you have to do it all the time if you want to get yourself out of the group stage."
If the Ospreys are to get out of the group stages this season, they will need to be at their very best after being drawn in a Pool 2 also occupied by multiple European champions Toulouse and Leicester, as well as Treviso, the improving Italian outfit.
Although Jones admits it will be a big ask, he insists his side will relish the chance of taking on the tournament's top boys.
He added: "It is going to be very tough. We have lost to Treviso in the league already this season, and we have to face them another three times this season which is not ideal as it means they know so much about us.
"But I view the glass as half full, not half empty. We get the chance to go to Welford Road to play Leicester and we go to Toulouse, two hotbeds of rugby, to try and be successful, and if you come away from those games having got something, then as a rugby player you know you are pretty good at your job."
The future of the Heineken Cup is in doubt due to the on-going disagreement surrounding the nature of qualification for the tournament, as well as the dispute between European Rugby Cup and Premiership Rugby over the competition's TV rights from 2014.
Yet Jones insists the players are taking little notice of the furore.
"We don't really think about it," he continued.
"I don't understand it, as a rugby player you worry about where you are going to be at the end of season. Can you qualify for the group stages or finish in the top four in the league? Any team wondering where they will be in future years is doomed to failure."
So, what are the hopes of the Ospreys achieving a dream Heineken Cup success with a side now shorn of the 'galacticos' of old?
Jones added: "It's a romantic view to think you can do that.
"We are realistic but every dog has his day and it would mean a lot to win it with a group of guys who are from the local area."