Ospreys have announced that Paul James has become the latest player to recommit to the region, taking the number who have signed new deals ahead of 2016/17 up to 19.
The only remaining Ospreys ‘original’ in the squad, the 34-year old loosehead prop has agreed a one-year extension to the deal which was due to run out next summer, keeping him at his home region until 2018 at least.
Speaking after putting pen to paper, James said: “I’m very happy about signing a new contract with my home region. The Ospreys mean a lot to me and I’m enjoying being back home and being involved with a young squad that I think can do really well this season.
“The first couple of weeks will be massive for us. We’ve got two home games against Italian sides, and three away in Ireland, for the first five games, and if we can get off to a good start it will put us in a good position to build on for the rest of the season. It’s an exciting time for everybody and I’m just delighted to know that I’m going to be a part of it.”
James made his regional debut as a 21-year old in the Ospreys’ first-ever competitive fixture, at the Gnoll against Ulster in September in 2003, having come through the ranks at Neath.
He became only the third ever Ospreys centurion exactly five years after his debut in September 2008, against Connacht, 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 last summer following three years in England, he is now just six games off his double century and sits fifth on the list.
He featured in both the EDF Energy Cup Finals against Leicester at Twickenham, and has captained the Ospreys on 29 occasions, most notably in the historic 24-16 win over Australia at the Liberty Stadium in 2006, with only four players having led the team on more occasions.
A former Wales U21 captain, James was awarded his first senior international cap in 2003 in a pre-Rugby World Cup game against Romania in Wrexham.
Although he was an unused member of the squad at the World Cup in Australia that autumn, he had to wait another six years for his second cap, which came against New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium in November 2009. Since then he has been a regular member of Warren Gatland’s squad, playing 66 times for the national squad in total, winning two Six Nations titles and featuring in two further World Cups.
Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy welcomed the news, saying: “Paul has been an outstanding servant for the Ospreys and is still an important, influential squad member who has a big part to play if we are going to be successful over the next two years.
‘His record for the region speaks for itself. He’s tough, uncompromising, with a huge amount of experience, and he cares passionately about this region. A fantastic role model for others in the group, he enjoys working with the younger players here, but understands that he still has a job to do on the pitch and he certainly adds much needed steel to our pack.
“We have some great options at loose head with the like of Nicky Smith, Ryan Bevington and Gareth Thomas pushing for a place, but Paul, with his professionalism, durability and never say die attitude, will have no intention of giving up his shirt without a fight, which is exactly how it should be.”