Rugby World Cup 2011: Jones pair fitness boost for Wales

Ryan Jones and Stephen Jones
Forward Ryan Jones (left) and fly-half Stephen Jones are former Wales captains

Warren Gatland has been boosted as Ryan Jones and Stephen Jones have insisted they will both be fit for Wales' World Cup opener against South Africa.

The experienced pair have suffered calf injuries this summer and fly-half Jones has not featured in any of Wales' three World Cup warm-up matches.

Versatile forward Jones, meanwhile, has played just 25 minutes this August in Wales' defeat by England at Twickenham.

But Jones insisted: "It's fine. It feels pretty good."

While his namesake Stephen added: "It's all good, to be honest.

"It was frustrating not to be involved because of the recurrence of the calf injury.

"But I've had some good news and hopefully will be back running in about seven or eight days."

And the Scarlets number 10 has reassured Wales coach Gatland that he "should be back to full fitness" before their opening World Cup match with the defending champions in Wellington on 11 September.

Ospreys man Jones, who can play in the back or second row, played in Wales' first pre-World Cup warm-up but the 30-year-old has not been available since.

"The recovery has been a bit slower than I hoped," said Ryan Jones.

"But I'm feeling pretty good. We have a lighter week ahead as we want to build it up slowly."

The British and Irish Lions pair, who have both captained Wales, give Gatland's squad vital depth and experience even though they might no longer be certain starters.

Wales' new-look back-row of Dan Lydiate, Toby Faletau and captain Sam Warburton are set to start in New Zealand while Alun Wyn Jones and Bradley Davies are expected to be second-row partners.

So Ryan Jones may have to be patient for his World Cup chance while namesake Stephen is battling with James Hook and Rhys Priestland to be Wales' first-choice fly-half for their critical clash with the Springboks.

Wales have only beaten South Africa once in 25 attempts but Gatland's side squandered leads on the two occasions the teams met in 2010.

"It is a frustration as we have run them pretty close but have not been able to turn them over," Ryan Jones said.

"But it's a World Cup and special things happen in World Cups.

"They will go in as favourites, but not huge favourites, so we have everything to play for and it's a massive opener.

"It's such a tough group but we have to thrive on that and try to come away with a win, even if we win all four games 3-0."

While Stephen Jones hopes Wales' "physical" training regime will aid their World Cup bid in a tough pool that also includes Samoa, Fiji and Namibia.

"It has been hard but we are a talented group and hopefully we can do ourselves justice," said Jones.

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