Saturday 16 December 2017

The Big Interview - Felix Jones

Munster full-back sets sights on making the grade for Ireland after recent call-up

Felix Jones is hoping to stay injury-free so he can aid Munster's bid for silverware
Felix Jones is hoping to stay injury-free so he can aid Munster's bid for silverware

Declan Rooney

It's been quite a fortnight of peaks and troughs for Felix Jones. Called into the Ireland international squad as back-up for the injury doubt Rob Kearney ahead of the All Blacks Test, he was released back to Munster ahead of last Saturday's Pro12 clash with Cardiff.

But, instead of getting a chance to feel sorry for himself, Jones was plunged straight into the action, starting at full-back and registering a solid display, which he crowned with his first try of the season.

And, while he was a little disappointed not to play a larger part for Ireland in the last few weeks, the fires of ambition still burn brightly in Jones.

"Yeah, it was great to get up there, but I had ambitions to be involved from the get-go," he said.

"The situation that I'm in, you kind of have to take things as they come, but I was happy to be involved during the week.

"I don't really know how close I was to playing, but, as far as I was concerned, I was going up there to just put my best foot forward and do what I have to do, train as well as I could.

"Joe seems like a good guy. I dealt with him a small bit on the American tour over the summer, so I got a bit of a feel for the set-up.

"I'd like to be involved more in the future obviously, but his success speaks for itself.

"And if the game at the weekend had gone the other way it would have been a great start for him," said Jones, who picked up the last of his five international caps against Canada during the summer.

International recognition is the ultimate for any rugby player, so you might expect the former Leinster academy star to feel a little down in the dumps about missing a shot at New Zealand. Instead of facing the haka, Jones faced a long bus journey to Wales. But, since his move to Munster in 2009, the love of the red shirt has slowly seeped in and it wasn't a difficult return to the fold.

"No, not at all, it wasn't tough. If you are going to be a professional in the sport, you have to be able to do that," he said.

"Apart from the professional side of things, I have absolutely no issues preparing myself for a game with Munster.

"A lack of motivation is never a problem when I am playing for Munster, not only for my personal ambitions, but just playing with the lads, going out there and playing with your mates.

"These are the lads you train with, work your ass off with every day in training and on the weekends, so there was no issue in me going out playing for Munster.

"In fact, I was more motivated having to come back down to bring anything I could to the team.

MILEAGE

"We had the team run on the Thursday, but I took a limited part in that as I had plenty of mileage clocked up earlier in the week.

"I trained on the Monday and Tuesday with Ireland, but it was pretty much straight down to Limerick and off to Cardiff. But it was great to pick up the win ahead of this weekend," said Jones, who still has another year and a half to run on his current Munster contract.

The majority of rugby players would sprout Pinocchio noses should they claim that they are not bothered their own personal statistics.

Front-rows know how many scrums they've won, second-rows how many line-outs they've stolen and backs like to count their tries.

Perhaps it is everything he has been through over the last few seasons, but somehow you believe Jones when he says he was more concerned with the team doing well than bagging his maiden try of the campaign and his seventh in 51 appearances for the province.

"To be honest, I wouldn't be going out targeting things like that. I'd be far more focused on trying to contribute to the team and helping us perform as well as we can as a unit.

"I never read too much into how I played. I won't say it was great at the weekend, just the same as I wouldn't say I was poor. I tend not to go for any side of the extremes.

"I was lucky at certain parts of the game and Casey (Laulala) made some great reads and I was lucky to get on the end of one and Andy Conway got on the end of another.

"We had a strong team out. We were missing the three lads who started for Ireland and I know Cardiff had a depleted team as well, but we were going over there to do a job and that's what we did.

"I wouldn't say the try was the icing on the cake for me at all. At that stage we were trying to get into the game, I didn't know a huge amount about it. Casey just popped it up to me and I got a bit lucky with the way I went down to catch it. It came off, thankfully, because at that stage of the game we were 3-0 down," he said.

"This weekend we have Dragons in another tough away match. They are going well at home this year so far, but we are going there to try and do a job and we are taking nothing lightly.

"With the three lads coming back from international duty and the two huge weeks coming up post-Dragons, there is a lot to play for.

"People will be vying for positions in the team and we want to consolidate our position in the league and keep the wheels turning ahead of the Heineken Cup.

"It is important that we keep our standards up this weekend. We have a handful of massive games before Christmas, so, hopefully, we can set them up with another win against the Dragons."

Irish Independent

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