LONDON Welsh head coach Justin Burnell has questioned if the inclusion of Ryan Jones in Bristol’s team will have a detrimental impact on their rivals in Wednesday’s play-off final.
Welsh host the big-spending West Country side at Oxford’s Kassam Stadium in the first leg of their Greene King IPA Championship final on Wednesday (7.45) in what should be a high-octane encounter.
Bristol have added spice to the play-offs by fielding former Wales captain Jones, who they signed before the deadline, but then loaned back to the Ospreys.
Once Ospreys could no longer make the Pro-12 play-offs, Jones returned to Bristol and captained the side on his debut in their second-leg win over Rotherham.
Welsh’s head coach believes the arrival of a new face – albeit an international – at a key stage of the season, might upset a few of the players who have been regulars throughout the season, but who will now be forced to watch on from the sidelines.
Burnell said: “I think they have got more Welsh in their ranks than we have, so I don’t know if it’s going to be a battle of the Welsh or what!
“This is what it’s about. Andy Robinson (director of rugby), with vast experience, Sean Holley (coach).
“Ryan Jones now coming in and taking control. He is captain already.
“It’s pretty interesting stuff, isn’t it? It must be great for morale, that one!”
Welsh beat Bristol 22-7 at home in November and will hope for a similar display on Wednesday.
Club captain Matt Corker said: “We know they are a great team with some great individuals.
“Obviously, they have been boosted by the arrival of Ryan Jones, who brings a lot of experience.
“It’s within the laws of the game. As long as it is ok with those guys, there’s nothing we can do about it.
“We are just going to focus on what we can do.”
With Bristol sure to have a big gate for the second leg, Corker hopes the Kassam Stadium crowd can play their part this week.
“They were definitely the 16th man against Leeds, absolutely fantastic,” said Corker.
“The volume coming from the stand was phenomenal.
“We have had some great days here at the Kassam and hopefully Wednesday is going to be another of those.”