Stephen Jones is in a very select club: he is one of few players with over 110 International caps to their name. He is joint 8th on the list of all-time International Caps and yet is in a similar position to his new club – both are embarking on new challenges. London Wasps has a new direction and ethos illustrated by a list of experienced players joining the squad.
Jones, 34, has finally left the green grass of Wales for foreign shores, landing in the bright lights of London – well, High Wycombe to be accurate – to settle down and begin a new chapter of his career.
Despite the turmoil that the club found itself in during the final few months of their last campaign, Jones declares the atmosphere is now very good at the club. He states that he was “fully aware of the situation and the pressure at the club,” before he joined, but that “unless you’re in the dressing room you won’t appreciate the mood of players.”
Jones, despite his years of experience, added he was still concerned about the reception he would receive from his new team mates, but says that he needn’t have worried as he enjoyed a brilliant welcome from the boys on his first day. He is even more effervescent in his praise of the young players at Wasps, “there are so many wonderful youngsters, who because of the injury problems at the club last season, got fast-tracked and were chucked onto the pitch and have done really well. It’s definitely moved them ahead in their rugby development.”
Wasps’ disappointing form last season, coupled with their savage injury crisis, highlighted weaknesses in the squad. The board needed to act and recruit some experienced players to boost the numbers and help guide the talented group of youngsters. This meant that along with Jones, Wasps have signed, amongst others, the likes of Andrea Masi from Italy, Ashley Johnson the South African Number 8, James Haskell and Tom Palmer, both of whom are established England players. Jones says of these new additions that, “from my own personal experience the new faces have integrated well, they’re all good guys who have been putting in the hard work in pre-season training and we will hopefully hit the ground running.”
Jones is not entering into this new venture with blind optimism, and is realistic in his predictions for Wasps in the upcoming season. “As the year goes along we will evolve and get better. Obviously with quite a few new players who have come into the club and quite a few youngsters coming up, we have to evolve and develop our game plan, it’s as simple as that.”
Jones’ own personal role in the new squad should aid that evolution. He has been placed by Young into a sort of mentor role and he is really looking forward to taking up that challenge, but remains focused on his main priority as a fly-half. “Firstly I’m looking forward to playing and if I can pass on some experience and some tips to some of the young guys then I would be a happy man.”
On the international scene, Jones still has the hunger, desire and pride to represent his country. “I haven’t retired form international rugby, I’m playing, I love playing rugby and that’s basically it, full stop. You’re a long time retired and at the moment I’m still really enjoying it.”
Looking further down the line, as many rugby fans and players like to do, the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia looms large, but Jones declares that he is not even thinking about the possibly of getting on the plane out there, and is adamant that he needs “to have two eyes on wasps, that’s my sole focus.”
When his illustrious career comes to an end, Jones should have a huge smile of satisfaction on his face. That day might be in two years when his current contract with Wasps expires or possibly even longer. On this issue, he does profess that he is not even thinking about his career after rugby, and says he “probably should do but, I’ve signed a two year deal and I’m really enjoying this new challenge. It’s been fresh and I’m just purely focused on rugby and hopefully wining some games.”
Talk of a fresh start and winning some games will be music to the ears of Wasps fans this season.