Why Adam Jones would be mad to turn down French move

Few props in world rugby can command the biggest salaries on offer. Carl Hayman set the precedent by joining Toulon from Newcastle on a £350,000 a year deal back in 2009. Gurthrö Steenkamp moved to Toulouse at the start of this season for another six figure sum. When you consider the world’s greatest props, Adam Jones without doubt ranks alongside those two stars.

Now 30 and with his contract with the Ospreys set to expire at the end of the season, Jones faces the decision that many Welshmen seem to have debated over the last year. With Lee Byrne, Mike Phillips and James Hook all in their first seasons at Clermont, Bayonne and Perpignan respectively, Luke Charteris and now Jones are the next Welsh stars to be linked with moves across the channel. And to be honest, who could blame them for going?

Playing in France, Welsh internationals have the chance to potentially double their annual salary with their province. James Hook currently earns £500,000 a season for Perpignan, who this season are not even in the Heineken Cup and languishing near the bottom of the Top 14 in 12th place after 8 defeats this season. The Catalan giants have reportedly made a similar three year offer to Gethin Jenkins, Jones’ fellow Lions and Wales prop, to join them next season. Financially, it is remarkable money.

For Jones however, there is the incentive to not just earn the big money in France, but also taste success. With Stade Toulousain apparently the frontrunners for his signature according to The Rugby Paper, the four time Heineken Cup winners would have the choice of either Jones or Census Johnston at tighthead, with Steenkamp and Jean-Baptiste Roux on the other side. The quality there is sickening. Jones would be guaranteed to at least reach either the Top 14 of Heineken Cup semi-finals. Combine that trophy incentive with the quality of life in the South of France, not to mention the food and wine, and you have a fantastic opportunity.

There is one snag though. Warren Gatland’s stance on selecting Welsh players who play abroad is relatively strict, hence the need for negotiations to ensure that not a single training session is missed. This was key to Mike Phillips move to Bayonne, where he agreed with the previous coaching regime that he would be released for all training sessions, even those outside of the stipulated IRB timeframe.

Where Jones has the advantage however, is that tighthead prop is not an area where Wales have exceptional strength in depth. Scott Andrews is still learning his trade at the highest level, whilst Craig Mitchell effectively held on to Jones’ shirt during last year’s Six Nations before making way, only featuring once during the Rugby World Cup. He is one of a few world class talents that Wales have at their disposal, and they will need him to win their biggest games.

It may not be what fans of Welsh rugby want to hear, but a level of empathy is required. Jones has been at the Ospreys since the age of 17. With over a decade’s worth of service for his region now under his belt, and his next contract potentially his last big money deal, it is hard to begrudge him a sojourn in France.

by Ben Coles

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

5 thoughts on “Why Adam Jones would be mad to turn down French move

  1. Topic of the moment this in Wales with the regions struggling with attendances -6000 for the Ospreys crunch game against Saracens and in no position to compete with the French clubs in the salary stakes .

    I don’t think anyone would begrudge Adam a few seasons of big money to set himself up as he will be a long time retired.

    I think structurally however that the problem is deeper than one players decision and of more worry is that there are rumours of large money being offered for players at the start of their Welsh careers for example reports of a £500,000 offer being made to the Scarlets to buy out George North’s contract.

    Central contracts via the WRU have been mooted as one response however it’s difficult to see how that would fit in with the “Benefactors ” approach that the regions have .Why would a guy like Mike Cuddy again at the Ospreys give up his major assets the players without compensation.

    Wales could bring in a harder player selection policy but can we really do without Adam Jones , Mike Phillips , James Hook , Luke Charteris and possibly Gethin Jenkins not to mention North , Warburton etc who can expect some mega offers in years to come , I think not.

    Mike Phillips had a verbal promise (apparantly ) that he would be released for all Welsh commitments however this does not include extra training camps such as the one coming up pre Six Nations in Poland . Perhaps the WRU could worse than to get their lawyers to draw up a standard release clause to be inserted in any players contract before they sign to play away this being a pre-condition of future Welsh selection.

    Anyway if I was offered two or three times my salary to spend a few years in the South of France I’d be on the next ferry so it’s hard to criticise any player who makes this choice.

  2. As in football, the lack of a salary cap means that the players will go. And it makes complete economic sense for a thirty something prop to make the move, as your article says. Ultimately, it may allow more talent to come through – but as a Welsh fan, I’m nervous, because take away Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones (who are, admittedly, exceptional players) and the rest of the available props lack stature.

  3. Another reason the props are more likely to go is that they usually can’t make the same sort of money from sponsorship ventures as others. Adam Jones in Calvin kleins anyone? no didn’t think so. Their only asset is their playing skills so they need to maximize profits in their short careers.

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