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Cool Adam is not ready to play the blame game.

Byline: By Andy Howell Western Mail

Trust Adam Jones. You can rely on him to pull no punches and the Wales prop certainly didn't as he mulled over the Ospreys' chances of making the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup.

Others at the big-spending Welsh region may have already began to play the blame game and be pointing to an extensive injury list as an excuse if they don't qualify.

But 2005 Grand Slam hero Jones won't go down that road - he pointed out Saturday's opponents Sale Sharks are without more big-hitters.

'Their injuries are probably 10 times worse than ours,' said the 25-year-old tighthead forward.

Ospreys are without lock Ian Evans and Sonny Parker, who both started for Wales during their record drubbing against New Zealand last November.

Full-back or wing Lee Byrne and hooker Huw Bennett, both in Wales' autumn squad, and former New Zealand back-rower Filo Tiatia are also among those on the injured list.

But they've got high-quality replacements in Wales internationals Alun Wyn Jones and Jonathan Bishop, ex-South Africa star Stefan Terblanche, former British Lions hooker Barry Williams and highly-rated young centre Andrew Bishop.

Sale might be Guinness Premiership champions but they haven't had the same luxury when it comes to filling the boots of England and Lions outside-half Charlie Hodgson, Scotland captain and hard man Jason White, England and Lions prop Andrew Sheridan, Argentina lock star Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, Tonga hard nut scrum-half Sililo Martens and centre Elvis Seveali'i, ex-Wales and Lions centre Mark Taylor and England and Lions wing Mark Cueto.

They've also seen Frenchman Daniel Larrechea, promising Scotsman David Blair and Welsh pair Nathan Bonner-Evans and Lee Thomas succumb to injury.

Their plight has been so desperate they've been forced to pick scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth at No 10.

Yet they still managed to beat Stade Francais in Stockport last month and mounted a ferocious and stunning comeback to pip Gloucester in the Guinness Premiership a couple of weeks ago.

Jones is likely to pack down at prop against Ruthin product Eifion Roberts, a rookie at this level who choose Sale ahead of the Scarlets.

But the prop isn't too concerned about the injuries have hit the strong Ospreys squad.

'Obviously, a few boys are out, but it's still not a bad looking team we have got out,' pointed out Wales' scrum rock.

Ospreys' failure to beat Stade last weekend - they drew 22-all after Ryan Jones gave an un-necessary penalty away on the halfway line - means they have to win at Edgeley Park, probably with a bonus point, to have any chance of reaching the last eight of the European showpiece.

That would be a first be in their four-year history, but they lost control of Pool Five after gifting Stade a share of the spoils.

Jones isn't quite sure what went wrong against the French outfit at the Liberty Stadium. Ospreys had trailed 16-6 at half-time after making a slow start.

'It shouldn't, but, maybe, the occasion got to us a bit. If we could put 80 minutes together like we did in the last 40 against Stade, we'd been a pretty difficult team to beat,' he said.

'We're almost a team full of internationals. People like Gav (Henson), Marshall (Justin) and Hooky (James Hook) are very confident.

'Perhaps we didn't front-up as a pack in the first half - they were making yards.

'It was a lost opportunity. If we took our first half out there in Paris and our second half here, we would have beaten them quite comfortably.

'Now we have to try and get a maximum to get into the quarters. Everyone was a bit down after the draw, but we have got good team spirit here.'

Sale's maximum at minnows Calvisano in Italy last weekend means just two points separate Stade, Ospreys and the Sharks in the group as it heads for a thrilling climax.

Although Sale are two points adrift, it's going to the wire, although Stade are favourites for automatic qualification as group winners with Calvisano to come at home in Paris on Saturday.

Ospreys or Sharks could go through as one of the two best runners-up and both know a bonus point would help them, which could lead to an open and high-octane encounter.

Jones laughed at suggestions they could agree beforehand to score four quick tries each to secure the bonus and then start playing for real.

'That'd be good,' he quipped. 'But we both need to win the game as well. We are going there to try and win.

'Even if we win and get four tries, we're still not guaranteed to go through.'

Meanwhile, the Ospreys last night announced they have reached a mutual agreement with Derwyn Jones - the region's rugby development manager - to release him from his current contract to pursue new opportunities.

Ospreys joint managing director, Roger Blyth said, 'We would like to thank Derwyn for his contribution to the region and wish him well in his future endeavours.'

Jones was shifted sideways from his high-profile post of rugby manager with the Ospreys' first team earlier this season in mysterious circumstances, former Wales centre Kevin Hopkins being brought in as director of rugby.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 18, 2007
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