Thursday 19 October 2017

Jones calls on rising Scarlets to ruin O'Gara's 'immense' landmark

Hugh Farrelly

SCARLETS' veteran out-half Stephen Jones believes the club is on the up and ready to ruin Ronan O'Gara's 100th Heineken Cup appearance when the sides clash at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday.

Jones lies second behind O'Gara on the all-time Heineken Cup scoring list (860 points from 80 outings versus 1,221 from 99) and the two have faced each other on numerous occasions for club and country as well as working as team-mates while battling for the Lions No 10 jersey in 2005 and 2009.

While Jones has dropped down the Wales and Scarlets pecking order behind Rhys Priestland, O'Gara reclaimed his Ireland starting place at the World Cup before providing the inspiration and points for Munster's opening Heineken Cup victories with last-play drop goals against Northampton and Castres.

With O'Gara poised to become only the second Heineken Cup centurion behind team-mate John Hayes, Jones paid tribute to his long-time rival but said the Scarlets were ready to meet the Munster challenge head-on.

"These back-to-back fixtures are huge," said Jones. "We have already sold more than 10,000 tickets and there has been a buzz about this game for a couple of weeks.

Force

"Munster have proved over and over what a force they are in Europe, while we have been there or thereabouts but fell away for a few years. We are getting back there now and this season we have really pushed on.

"Getting to 100 Heineken Cup matches will be an immense achievement for Rog. He has proved what a quality player he is for Munster and Ireland down the years, at the heart of what Munster do for so long, and he can vary his game by putting the ball through the hands or by pinning a side into the corners.

"He knows just what he has to do and when to do it -- you just have to look at what he did with the drop goals in the games against Northampton and Castres.

"It's a cracking match-up between two sides which have history and know each other so well," added Jones. "Munster are a well-organised, well-drilled outfit and play with real passion and commitment -- we know we have to match that to stand a chance.

"Everybody can see that the Scarlets are now heading in the right direction and it is a really exciting time at Parc y Scarlets. Players like George North, Scott Williams and Jon Davies have really established themselves.

"For myself, I haven't retired from international rugby and have no plans to retire. European rugby is the shop window. I am still enjoying my rugby and I have been really energised by what is happening at the Scarlets. It's up to me to prove what I have to offer."

Irish Independent

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