BATH v DRAGONS (Tomorrow, KO 2.15)
IT WAS around this time last year that number eight Ieuan Jones made his regional bow for Newport Gwent Dragons at Wasps – but it was far from a regulation way to make a debut.
The back row forward, then 18, had been recovering from a broken bone in his left hand and was in a plaster cast.
No bother. The qualified carpenter from Aberbargoed cut off the protection and went on to play his part as a sub in the 30-29 LV= Cup win.
“It’s part and parcel of playing rugby,” said 19-year-old Jones ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Bath. “You just do what needs to be done!”
It’s one of many tales about a bright prospect from the Andy Powell school of number eights, both in terms of his appetite for collisions and his off-field personality.
Jones has highlights in his hair, a penchant for tattoos, a bright yellow car and is a popular member of the squad – but most importantly produces the goods on the field.
It was clear when he turned out for Pontypool in the Premiership last season that he had talent, it was just a case of him adding some bulk.
“Ieuan brings real intensity – he is abrasive and gives 100 per cent all the time” said James Chapron, the Dragons Academy boss who was his coach at Pooler.
“He wasn’t as fortunate as some in that he didn’t come through the system but the conditioning work is starting to pay off and go along with his work ethic and gusto.
“But Ieuan isn’t just about that, he has really matured and has the drive and desire to push others to be better.”
Jones has maintained his progress with Newport this season and the Dragons plan to wind him up and watch him go tomorrow afternoon.
If he impresses then he could well play a prominent role this season given their scarce back row resources.
With Dan Lydiate, Hywel Stoddart and Darren Waters out of action with long-term injuries, this is a golden shot for Jones.
He deputises for in-form number eight Tom Brown, who suffered a bump at Glasgow, and wants to stand out at the Rec.
“It’s my chance to prove a point and show what I can do,” said Jones, who was a member of the Wales Under-20s Junior World Championship squad last summer.
“The LV= Cup is a good opportunity to get a couple of games and hopefully keep my spot.
“I need to play well in these games then progress from there because I think there is a real opportunity to get more Dragons games.
“It’s been a great help working alongside Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau this season and now I’ve got my chance to impress.
“I just need to get stuck in at Bath, carry hard and make my tackles. It will be a good test for me but I can’t wait.”
Jones has made just one appearance this season – in the Amlin Challenge Cup defeat at Wasps – but his head coach believes he’s made great strides.
“It’s been a bit different for Ieuan than it has for (fellow teenagers) Jack Dixon and Hallam Amos,” said Darren Edwards.
“Unlike backs you have to make sure young forwards can come through physically but we have worked hard with him and I am sure he will demonstrate all of that effort tomorrow.
“Ieaun is a tough player, both physically and mentally, and we are all excited about seeing him at Bath.
“He’s done it in the Premiership and we don’t doubt he can do it at the next level.”