Name Ceri Rhys Jones
Age 33 (19 June 1977)
It was a question of when, not if, I started playing. My dad, Lyn, was a second-row with Ebbw Vale and Newport, but it was my mum, Claire, who did all the hard work when I was starting out. My dad was busy on the family farm so it was left to my mum to drive me to training and matches. I owe her a lot.
Growing up near Usk, in South Wales, mini rugby wasn’t available, so at under-eights I started playing for Newport High School Old Boys.
The farm did, however, become my other rugby pitch and there was plenty of time to play there with my father and brother, Gareth (who went on to play for UWIC and Usk).
There always seemed to be a ball around. The only problem was that as the smallest I had to do all the throwing in! The position I settled into was hooker, although I was a little lighter – and quicker – in my junior days so was even picked in my first years at wing.
Huge encouragement was given to me by a great sports teacher at my primary school called Byron Webster, and my dad never pushed me.
When I met a careers officer at school I said I wanted to be a professional rugby player, but as the game hadn’t even turned professional they said, ‘Don’t be stupid, there’s no such thing as a professional rugby player’. As it turned out the game turned pro a few years later, so I like to think I had some foresight.
The main reason I stayed at hooker for so long was Iestyn Thomas. With him around my opportunities at loosehead were restricted. I was playing in Pontypool & District sides, and the role of loosehead was taken by him while I played hooker alongside him.
I grew up fast playing junior rugby in Wales. It was full-on, even at schoolboy level, and the boots used to fly and you’d get kicked in the shins. I look back and see how much I learnt.
A big turning point for me was New Zealand. My dad met former All Blacks tourist Jock Ross while playing for the Classic Barbarians in Bermuda and he arranged for me to have a season Down Under. The trip really focused my mind. I played for Southern and was selected for the Canterbury U20s. We played New Zealand in one game, which was a real inspiration for me. When I came back I had a new determination to succeed. It made me realise I really had to step up.
Arriving home, aged 21, my dad managed to get me a trial at Newport and with Rod Snow banned at the time I was soon handed my debut, at The Gnoll against Neath propping against Andrew Millward. He’s a really awkward player to take on.
Opportunities were limited in 2003 because of regional rugby, especially with guys like Rod Snow and Adrian Garvey at Newport, so I was lucky enough to move to Harlequins on loan. That went well enough for me to be offered a two-year contract.
I’m still ambitious to add to my two Wales caps. I accept that playing outside the country hasn’t helped me and it was tempting to go back, but I’ve loved my time at Quins. When you’re enjoying yourself somewhere you tend to stay.
It was incredible to see the reaction of the Harlequins fans when I played my last home game, against Saracens. It was humbling to receive a standing ovation when I went on and when I went off. Phenomenal, especially for a Welshman at a traditionally English club.
The perfect club for me to join is Worcester. They’re a hugely ambitious club, a sleeping giant, and it also means I can move back and live in Wales. My son is four and his grandparents are really missing him. I’m delighted to see Worcester promoted back to the Aviva Premiership and I can see the parallels from when Harlequins were relegated, then promoted.
It was the making of Quins in many ways and we discovered a number of key players that season, including Nick Easter, Chris Robshaw and Jordan Turner-Hall. It stopped us getting too big for our boots afterwards.
Did you know? Jones won both his Wales caps on the 2007 summer tour to Australia, off the bench at Sydney and starting at tighthead in Brisbane a week later. In the Aviva Premiership Double Header last September, Jones made his 200th Quins appearance.
This article appeared in the July 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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