Ospreys prop Rhodri Jones hopes a switch back to loose-head can reignite his interrupted Wales career.
Jones, who won the most recent of his 17 Test caps in 2018, was recalled to Wales’ Six Nations squad last week.
The 29-year-old had made his debut in 2012, but found himself in and out of favour as Wales played him as a tight-head prop, whereas Ospreys and previous side Scarlets saw him as a loose-head.
“That’s helped massively,” Jones says of his return to loose-head.
“I feel confident about my scrummaging on the loose-head so I can concentrate on working on other parts of my game. I love it.”
Although he is still relatively young by front-rowers’ standards, it is more than a decade since Jones burst on to the scene with Scarlets and made his professional debut as a teenager in 2010.
It was not long before Wales took notice, calling him up to a training squad in 2011 and handing him his first international appearance in 2012.
Standing at 6ft 3in and weighing more than 18 stone, Jones’ enormous frame made him an asset in the loose, if a work in progress in the scrum.
And that is where the problems started.
Scarlets still considered him a loose-head prop, where he could make use of his raw physical materials around the field.
But Wales’ coaching staff – then led by Warren Gatland – disagreed and tried converting him into a tight-head prop, a position which places greater emphasis on the technicalities of scrummaging.
“I thought I started off pretty well, played a few games and started against Australia, Argentina and Tonga in an autumn series,” Jones says of his switch.
“That was really exciting. Then I think maybe in international rugby there weren’t as many scrums, and it was a bit easier. Then I got to regional rugby, when the weather’s bad or something, you can get games where there are a lot of scrums.
“I think it just got highlighted then and, as opposition teams try to target weaknesses, they tried to target my scrum.
“Towards the end it got a bit frustrating, but I achieved quite a lot doing it as well. Playing for Wales is what I’ve wanted to do since I was a little boy, so it wasn’t all bad.”
Jones has 17 precious caps to his name but the change in position contributed to his difficulty in securing regular first-team action with Wales.
During that time, the Aberystwyth-born player joined Ospreys in 2016 and, under former head coach Allen Clarke, he reverted to his original position of loose-head prop.
“He brought me in one morning and said I was going to play loose-head, so I just said ‘okay’,” Jones recalls.
“It just went on from there, and I’m very glad I did it.”
Ospreys are now under the guidance of another head coach, Toby Booth, and enjoying an excellent season.
Their upturn in form has led to Wales recalls for blindside flanker Dan Lydiate, the 2012 Six Nations player of the tournament, and Jones.
“I was a bit surprised to be honest,” Jones says of his return to the Wales squad.
“I was elated. I’ve been involved in the squads in the past but over the last few years, only if there’s been injuries and stuff.
“It’s really nice to be picked from the start and for the Six Nations especially.
“It’s going to be a competitive environment, but I’m going to do my best and put my best foot forward.”