Time for Jones to take French payday

Date published: August 12 2013

As he enters the twilight of his career, Adam Jones will have to pick the Ospreys or a big pay cheque – it shouldn't be a tough choice.

Over the course of this season, three Ospreys, all at different stages of their career, will have a big decision to make.

Adam Jones, Alun-Wyn Jones and Ian Evans are all back in training with the Welsh region ahead of the new season, fresh from a well-earned holiday following the success of the British and Irish Lions in Australia.

AW Jones captained the Lions to victory over Australia in the third Test back in July and will lead the Ospreys this season. Evans has been described as the most underrated member of a Welsh pack that has taken two Six Nations titles in the last two years.

Yet neither player, talented as they are, can match the market value and importance to their country that the curly-haired tighthead prop from Neath brings to the table.

Jones signed a two-year extension with the Ospreys back in 2012, rejecting contract offers from abroad and stating the following at the time:

“As part of the contract discussions we spoke at length about the direction the Ospreys are taking, with the changes that are taking place, and I'm genuinely excited about the future, for the region and for myself personally.”

In the time since Jones agreed an extension, whether that excitement has been matched by success is up for debate.

The Ospreys pipped Leinster to the RaboDirect PRO12 title in 2012 thanks to Shane Williams' dramatic late finish, but failed to make the play-offs in 2013, although Jones was named in the Team of the Season.

Where the Welsh region have persistently fallen short is in Europe. It has now been three seasons since the Ospreys made the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup, a stage they have never advanced beyond. Making it out of their pool in 2013-2014, in a group containing Leinster and a rejuvenated Northampton Saints, is not easy to envisage.

The difference between rejecting a move to France at 32 rather than 30 may seem small on paper, but Jones is now, if not at the top of the hill that is his outstanding career, beginning to slowly descend down the other side.

His importance to his country is immeasurable – a cornerstone of a pack that has achieved great things and has the potential to go even better building up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup. A move to France would not cut Jones off from the national side, because they cannot do without him.

Welsh rugby desperately needs as many stars as possible to keep the regions alive and the loss of Dan Lydiate and Jamie Roberts to France during the off-season has been another sting in the tail, with both players in their mid-20s.

But for some players, Jones included, lengthy careers (Jones has been with the Ospreys since 2003) deserve the greatest reward. His service to Welsh rugby cannot be questioned or criticised.

Rejecting a move to France two years ago was a welcome surprise from arguably the world's best tighthead. Nobody could begrudge him now, despite his love of the Ospreys, his home, for looking to secure his family's financial future with a payday overseas.

“As much as I love this region (Ospreys), if I can look after my family by going to play in France, I am willing to do that. You would be dull to turn that money down. I wouldn't want to cut any ties with the region but my family comes first and I have to look at that very seriously if any offers come in,” said Jones to the BBC earlier this month.

For his own personal trophy cabinet and finances, Jones should take any offers in 2013 with both hands. His career and talent deserve the inclusion of a Top 14 or Heineken Cup title on his glittering CV.

by Ben Coles