Wednesday 13 December 2017

Jones bucks trend to stay with Ospreys

Alun-Wyn Jones has revealed
Alun-Wyn Jones has revealed "being in the right environment" was a key factor in determining his future

Andrew Baldock

Wales star Alun-Wyn Jones has revealed that "being in the right environment" was a key factor in determining his future.

The Lions second-row has resisted the temptation to move abroad by agreeing a new Ospreys deal that will keep him at the Swansea-based region until after the 2015 World Cup.

It is a huge boost for Welsh rugby, given the back-drop of political unrest between Wales' four professional regions and the Welsh Rugby Union.

And 28-year-old Jones' decision bucks the recent trend of top players quitting the Welsh domestic game, coming less than 24 hours after reigning European champions Toulon announced a lucrative contract for Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny.

Several of Jones' Wales colleagues, including Mike Phillips, Jamie Roberts, Dan Lydiate and James Hook, already play in France, while Halfpenny, centre Jonathan Davies and lock Ian Evans will join the exodus later this year.

But Jones, who captained the Lions in their series-clinching victory over Australia in Sydney last summer, is staying put.

"I am very happy to resolve my future," he said. "It's flattering to have received offers from elsewhere, but my focus is on being in the right environment to ensure the longevity of both my domestic and international career.

"It's important to me that I am playing the right level of rugby, which is why it makes sense for me to accept the offer from the Ospreys."

Jones is favourite to captain Wales in next week's Six Nations opener against Italy if squad skipper Sam Warburton does not return from a shoulder injury.

Jones made his Ospreys debut in 2005, is the current captain and was a key figure on the last two Lions tours.

Ospreys operations manager Andy Lloyd added: "It will give everybody involved with the region a huge boost.

"Given the uncertainty that still surrounds the game in Wales, we've given Alun-Wyn reassurances regarding his future, but it is fantastic news that he is staying."

Halfpenny's exit from Cardiff Blues, which will take effect at the end of this season, was accompanied by powerful remarks from Blues chief executive Richard Holland that vividly reflect Welsh rugby's toxic political climate.

Holland said: "Retaining Leigh has been one of our highest priorities. His performances have made him one of the most prized players in rugby. We put our best offer on the table, but he has been the target of a major European club with resources that we cannot compete with at this time.

"The threat to Welsh rugby and our ability to keep top players in Wales is highlighted by the fact the French game is underpinned by broadcast revenues that dwarf anything we receive from our domestic league.

"The future of the game in Wales must be sorted out now – this situation simply cannot be allowed to continue."

Irish Independent

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