FORGOTTEN MAN JONES IS THRIVING IN FRENCH CHALLENGE
HE is in the prime of his career and has already been part of something few Welshmen will ever experience.
But to most casual rugby fans, Carwyn Jones will be something of a mystery.
Make that a complete mystery, perhaps.
The 6ft 5in, 18st second row fleetingly rose to prominence as part of the Wales Under-20s side that reached the Junior World Championship final in 2013.
The team that went tantalisingly close to glory contained the likes of Ellis Jenkins, Elliot Dee, Rhodri Williams, Sam Davies and Hallam Amos, all of whom went on to win senior caps.
But Jones’s career took a different path.
While Messrs Jenkins, Dee, Davies, Williams and Amos took the high road to the Test game, Jones went on to complete close on 50 games for Carmarthen Quins before heading off to Ealing Trailfinders.
A move to French club RC Vannes followed in 2017, with Jones telling WalesOnline after he’d lined up the switch: “It’s quite an adventure.
“I will give it a go here for a couple of years and then see where that takes me.
“I would love to come back home and play regional rugby again one day.
“Hopefully, opportunity will come around a second time.”
Not just yet, it seems, for the Haverfordwest product and former Scarlets academy player this week put pen to paper on a contract extension with Vannes.
It’s only for a year, but it underlines that the 26-year-old is enjoying life in France and in no hurry to come home.
“I’m really happy to stay in Vannes,”
“I think we can do something special here and it’s a club with huge support from the public. I have enjoyed the last two years on the field and cannot wait to finish this season and start the next one.”
His former club, Carmarthen Quins, believe Welsh rugby is missing out on a good player.
“Carwyn is a class act,” said rugby manager Steff Thomas.
“We tried to re-sign him, but I guess he’s enjoying the weather, lifestyle and rugby out in France.
“My own opinion is that he might have been released a bit early at academy level over here. He probably still had a bit of growth in him physically.
“But credit where credit’s due: he’s playing in a league that has some real brutes in it.
“And on the evidence of the video footage we’ve seen he’s more than holding his own.
“I’m surprised he’s not playing for
one of the regions back in Wales.
“He told me he would love to come back and play professionally. But maybe it’s not the right time and he’s decided to stay out in France.”
Jones has played 39 games for Vannes, who compete in Pro D2 in France, a section that contains some big names including Brive, Biarritz and Beziers. After four straight wins, Vannes are looking to make the play-offs.
That junior world final six years ago saw Wales Under-20s come unstuck 23-15 against an England side that contained Jack Nowell, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Alec Hepburn, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Clifford and Ross Moriarty, appearing for England before ultimately throwing in his lot with Wales.
Operating alongside Rhodri Hughes, Jones had a strong campaign, adding ballast to the Welsh pack and contributing to strong scrummaging performances throughout the tournament.
“The thing is with Carwyn, he’s a quiet man and sometimes quiet men can go a bit under the radar,” said Steff Thomas.
“But he was a really good player for us. He’s a No. 4, a player in the Jake Ball mould, a strong guy who carries powerfully.
“It’s great for him that he’s doing well.”
One Welshman who is returning to Quins from France is prop Ben Leung.
The former Wales Under-20s tighthead, who has previously appeared for Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets, left to play for Bergerac in Federale 1 last year.
But the 24-year-old has signed a deal to come back to Quins, for whom he made four appearances in 2014-15.