DRAGONS v OSPREYS (tomorrow, KO 6.30)
IEUAN Jones is a young man in demand.
The 19-year-old back row forward will be juggling his time between Newport Gwent Dragons and Wales Under-20s over the coming weeks and months.
Jones, from Aberbargoed, is expected to be a key component of the young guns’ Six Nations challenge.
But with Toby Faletau on Test duty and Tom Brown sidelined with his ankle strapped up, he is also needed at the base of the scrum by his region.
The Dragons are set to request his release from international duty when there are fixture clashes and Under-20s boss Danny Wilson has hinted that he will agree to return him to Rodney Parade.
But number eight/blindside Jones is not worrying about where he will be – just give him a time and a place and he will turn up.
“I just want to play rugby and take whatever opportunities come my way,” said the teenager, whose next chance comes against the Ospreys in the LV= Cup tomorrow evening.
“I’ll just play wherever I am told to!
“I’ve got a busy time ahead but all that I am focusing on at the moment is the Ospreys.
“This game is a chance for me to impress my Dragons coaches and my Wales Under-20s coaches in a derby.
“And it will be tough because the Ospreys will have lots of players in a similar position to me who will want to show what they can do.”
Jones has shown great promise in his ten regional appearances, most notably in the Amlin Challenge Cup defeat in Bayonne that was live on Sky Sports.
World Cup winner and pundit Will Greenwood was full of praise for the teenager, labeling his performance as “outstanding”.
But the Dragons coaches are loath to rush Jones through, especially given that a year ago he was combining rugby with his job as a carpenter.
In fact, Wales Under-20s boss Danny Wilson highlighted the important off-field work that the young back rower has to put in to fulfil his promise.
“Ieuan was great for us in the Junior World Championship last summer,” said the former Dragons forwards coach.
“He probably didn’t get as much rugby as he had hoped for but his reaction to that was very impressive.
“Ieuan was professional and when he came off the bench he made a real impact. That showed that he had matured and he has continued to do so with the Dragons.
“He has got some good people who will keep him on the right track and it’s about management of his playing time and also conditioning.
“He probably needs to grow a bit and I am sure he will be working hard with (Dragons head of conditioning) Alex Lawson to do that.
“That means that supporters sometimes have to be patient, because there will be times when he needs to be putting in that work rather than playing.”
And to that end, Jones is pleased that he no longer has to combine his graft in the gym with his hammer time.
“I am working hard with Alex and have put on a couple of kilos since the start of the season,” he said.
“It was difficult when I had to combine it with a job but now I have got more recovery time and feel that I am coming on well.”
And Jones will aim to show more evidence of his progress at Rodney Parade tomorrow.