Jones relegated to second row after Ospreys reshuffle pack

Wales captain handed new role for his long-awaited return in Heineken Cup meeting with London Irish

If there have been times in recent seasons when Ryan Jones, the captain of Wales, found himself wondering where his rugby career might be heading, he could not have imagined in his wildest dreams that it would lead him into the dark depths of the Ospreys engine room. The Lions loose forward's selection in the second row for tonight's big Heineken Cup contest with London Irish at the Liberty Stadium – a game the home side cannot afford to lose – took everyone by surprise. And yes, that "everyone" included Jones.

"The reasons behind the decision are twofold," explained Scott Johnson, the Welsh region's director of coaching. "Jonathan Thomas started the year at No 8 as Ryan was unavailable for a period of time. He was asked to fill the void and in fairness to him, he's done exceptionally well. I promised Jonathan that once a bloke gets the shirt, it's up to the others to take it off him. As a coaching team, we are supporting him.

"At the same time, we've missed Ryan's contributions and we want him in the team. To put him at No 8 and move Jonathan to lock... it changes calls, line-outs, everything. We didn't want to go down that path on a short turnaround between matches. We need Ryan's industry, bravery and effectiveness, but it's too complicated to start shifting everyone. The players were told of the situation at the same time. We explained the logic to them and there were no issues. Ryan is a great team man and he gave us exactly the response we expected."

Johnson ventured to suggest that Jones, closing in on his 30th birthday, might spend increasing amounts of time in the recesses of the scrum. As for the player himself, there was no indication of whether he would enjoy such a change of scenery, or whether he would rather stick pins in his eyes. He has more pressing concerns right now, not least his place in the Wales set-up ahead of the autumn internationals. Warren Gatland, the national coach, is scheduled to name his squad for the November Tests over the next few days, and given the nature of the opposition – the three major southern hemisphere powers, plus Fiji, who denied Wales a place in the World Cup quarter-finals three years ago – he has little room for error. Match fitness and match hardness will be vital, and Jones is currently in possession of neither. Tonight sees his first start of the season.

Narrowly beaten in Toulon six days ago, Ospreys will throw a full hand of high-class internationals – Lee Byrne, Shane Williams, James Hook, Mike Phillips, Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all – at the Exiles, who dug deep to see off Munster at the Madejski Stadium in their opening fixture. A second victory this evening would put London Irish in pole position in the race for a knockout place, but injuries in the back row are hurting them, and they have been forced to omit the England full-back Delon Armitage under the terms of the Elite Player Agreement between the Rugby Football Union and the Premiership clubs.

As expected, the ferocious Tongan forward Chris Hala'ufia replaces the stricken Declan Danaher, who injured his knee last Saturday and joined the likes of Steffon Armitage, Richard Thorpe and James Gibson on an ever-growing back-row casualty list. Topsy Ojo, an acknowledged strike runner on the right wing but less renowned as a last line of defence, will wear the No 15 shirt – a positional switch of obvious interest to Dan Biggar and the other tactical kickers in the Ospreys back division.

Cardiff Blues, generally considered to be the second-best regional side in Wales, travel to France for tonight's awkward game against Castres without their most experienced international hand. Martyn Williams, five caps short of a richly-deserved century, is serving a two-week ban, so Sam Warburton, extremely well regarded by the national selectors, starts in the breakaway position.

Australia, meanwhile, will head for Europe next month with a stronger forward unit than initially expected. Mark Chisholm, who played at lock against England in the summer, has recovered from a knee injury and is fit to travel.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little