FOR­GOT­TEN MAN JONES IS THRIV­ING IN FRENCH CHAL­LENGE

Llanelli Star - - SPORT - MARK OR­DERS Rugby cor­re­spon­dent mark.or­[email protected]­line.co.uk

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,”

he said.

“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.

Car­wyn Jones

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