Tuesday 24 October 2017

Jones relishes chance to catch eye by doing unseen work

Munster's Felix Jones during squad training
Munster's Felix Jones during squad training
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

TO THOSE of us watching on, this feels like something of a belated breakout season for Felix Jones. He disagrees.

The difference, according to the Munster full-back, is that those watching on are doing so with a more critical eye. He doesn't mention him by name, but the Dubliner is talking about the Joe Schmidt effect.

Jones has had his moments in the past, most notably in the build-up to the 2011 World Cup when he appeared to have convinced Declan Kidney to make the squad, but then suffered a foot injury in the warm-up game against France and couldn't go.

Between 2011 and 2014, he won just two more caps on the tour of the United States and Canada but between the summer tour to Argentina and the November internationals he has found favour with Schmidt and the Ireland management and came off the bench in the big wins over South Africa and Australia, while bagging a brace of tries against Georgia.

Trust

While Anthony Foley has named him captain on a number of occasions, the Dubliner has earned the trust of the national management team on the back of his consistently strong displays for Munster and his defensive nous as the last line.

"I don't know if it's the way we're playing the game, is that allowing me to get on the ball, or the positions that I'm finding myself in defensively, if that's easier," he said. "But no, I don't think so. I don't feel I'm doing a huge amount different. I think (recognition) probably comes with success as well, in that up to November we'd been very successful in both competitions.

"We're obviously still in a great spot in the Pro12 and we are still just about surviving, we're still alive in Europe, so if Munster are going well and performing well and beating other Irish teams, then the guys are going to get the nod or get asked to come into camp. So maybe it's a knock-on from that.

"The other side of that is there are new coaches in the last year or two with Ireland. They're putting in a huge amount of analysis, seeing guys' performances and it's no longer - not that it ever was - but I think the coaching staff, the net is now so fine that if a guy is performing, it's recognised.

"It's not simply based on hearsay or reputation. If a guy is performing well he's brought up into camp."

This week, Ireland is at the back of Munster minds as the task at hand looms large.

Today, Foley names his team to face Saracens for Munster's latest episode in the do-or-die chronicles. Jones says their previous exploits will hold little water in London.

"It's in the record books and it's unbelievable for the clubs to have it," he said. "It's a source of pride for the club but in terms of the players we're full aware that it counts for nothing for us.

"We have to do it. We've come through some tight spots in recent seasons where it looked like we were down and out and we managed to pull through but it counts for nothing. This is 80 minutes and it's just all or nothing."

It is going to be a demanding 80 minutes for Munster's back three against a side who kick probing for errors, while their 4G pitch opens up opportunities for Alex Goode, David Strettle and Chris Ashton.

Dangerous

"It's uncanny," Jones said of their back-three's scoring record. "Their three guys show up together the amount of time they're on the ball and they're on the side of each other so yeah they're seriously dangerous guys.

"We're doing our analysis and giving them the respect but we're going over there to not allow them to do it.

"It's just something that you have to a good bit of work into during the week and start queuing yourself and queuing the guys around you.

"The game in Thomond Park had a huge amount of kicking and a lot of contestable balls. It being a good surface, you can get through a lot of work, a lot of speed, a lot of load goes through the legs there so there will be a fair bit of work."

Irish Independent

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