After joining an exclusive club of just four players to have made 200 appearances for the Ospreys last night, Paul James says he still has “the hunger” to add considerably to that total.
An Ospreys ‘original’ who made his debut in the region’s first ever competitive fixture, against Leinster on the opening day of 2003/04, he became only the third ever Ospreys centurion exactly five years after his debut in September 2008, and was the first to reach 150 appearances for the region.
He departed the Ospreys for Bath at the end of 2011/12 season, the final game in his first spell at the region being the PRO12 Final victory over Leinster at the RDS, his and the Ospreys fourth league title.
At that time, he was top of the region’s all-time appearance list on 180 and, having returned to the Liberty Stadium ahead of last season, follows Duncan Jones, Andrew Bishop and Alun Wyn Jones in completing a double century for the Ospreys.
“It is an achievement to be proud of” James said.
“Being a local boy, getting to 200 games for my home region is pretty special. I moved away for three years so it goes through the mind that maybe that’s that. I wanted to be able to come back to the Ospreys, come home, but you don’t know what the future holds, so I had to accept it may never come.
“I’m happy that I’m back here and happy that I’ve got to 200. While I was away it was nice to see the boys get theirs. Dunc and Bish are good friends so I was happy for them to do something special even if they were overtaking me!
“After seeing Al do his two weeks ago at the Leinster , I’m pleased that I could do mine last night.”
In the 13 years since his Ospreys debut James has seen many changes at the region but he insists the priority today, as a 200 man, is the same as it was on day one:
“You see people come, you see people go, you see things change around the camp, the way we do things, but at the end of the day it’s about playing rugby. You learn quickly in professional sport that whatever goes on around you, whatever changes, you have to keep focused on what matters, or you’ll be left behind.
“I’ve been here a long time, like you said, but all that matters to me is that we keep driving to make us the best rugby team that we can.”
Ospreys Head Coach, and James’ former team-mate, Steve Tandy, has spoken about the prop’s leadership qualities, with the loose head a positive
influence in the dressing room and on the youngsters coming through the ranks, but the player himself believes that his positive attitude is what can be the biggest influence on others.
“I really do enjoy helping young players coming through and that is a big factor in what goes on around here, I think we all realise that” said James.
“At the end of the day though, my mindset has to be that I’m still a rugby player. I want to be challenging to play all the time, I want to be wearing the shirt. I’ve still got that hunger to keep playing.
“Maybe that’s how I can help the youngsters the best, if I can pass on that kind of attitude, it can help them, and the Ospreys, push on.”
With 200 Ospreys appearances behind him, 66 games for Wales and approaching 100 more while at Bath, what does James put his durability down to?
“I think a lot of it luck, in avoiding injuries” he laughed.
“With that luck then you’ve got to make the most of it, look after yourself. Your body is the most important tool for a rugby player and sometimes you don’t realise that as a young player, it’s only when you get older it becomes clear.”