Belfast Telegraph

Jones targeting Irish jersey after injury-free spell

By David Kelly

He's still only 26, but Munster and Ireland full-back Felix Jones has compiled enough life experiences to rival someone a decade older.

Sadly, the former Seapoint graduate – he of the ungainly, but effective Paula Radcliffe running style – has spent too much time being prodded and probed by folks in medical suits rather than tracksuits.

This season, though, he has forged some blessed relief from the multiple injuries that have carved a host of scars and incisions upon his frame.

It is rarefied air he breathes now, that of a liberated professional, no longer coursed by endlessly mocking physical limitations.

The physical has affected the mental – it must.

Selfishness has rarely found a place in his intellectual wardrobe, as those who knew him in his Leinster days well recall, and now, this selflessness is even more prominent.

It doesn't eclipse ambition, merely offers equilibrium.

The man bound for the last World Cup until his ankle was smashed (even if his Munster mates jibed that he wouldn't have been selected anyway!), simply cannot afford to gamble with his emotions.

He saw Munster and Ireland coaches leave their posts, knew he had struggled to fulfil himself and tried so hard not to get stung by his inability to impress each as much as he would have liked, were it not for his disobedient body.

He would train with Paul O'Connell, the freakish second-row lifting rowing machines single-handedly, despite the minor inconvenience of a broken arm or a shattered torso – sometimes both.

O'Connell would then storm back into the team, freighting the wall of the gym atop his shoulders, leaving Jones to gape, awe-struck at a seeming superhero whose miraculous powers of recovery made him look like Mr Bean.

But he's over that now, he likes to think (we'll accelerate past the minor ankle turn this term).

A summer tour under Joe Schmidt and a flirtation with the squad that almost beat the All Blacks in November has tickled his palate anew.

The Wolfhounds play England in Gloucester later this month and Jones is eagerly eyeing a return to the English midlands following this weekend's Heineken Cup clash at Kingsholm.

"I'd love to be involved in any 'A' game or senior game, it's any rugby player's ambition to play for their country," says the player who joined Munster in 2009, but whose progress has been stunted by serious neck, shoulder and ankle setbacks.

"I was up at the camp before the New Zealand game. Obviously, with the New Zealand game coming up, there was huge excitement, the more I can get up there the better.

"Joe has an incredible knowledge base of the game. It's not just the Heineken games he has been watching, he has been at the Pro12 games also.

"It's out of my control, of course; I can't make him pick me; all I can do is concentrate on how I'm going and what I'm doing on a weekly basis.

"I have been up and down a bit over the last couple of years. Sometimes it's worked, sometimes it hasn't. But I've grown up playing with a lot of the lads there, so it's a great surrounding."

He'll never know how close, or far, he may have been to that 23 for the New Zealand game, but just being among those who prepared for it that week engendered enough enthusiasm for him to want to return quickly.

"Joe would obviously have given pointers to me on what to do to improve as a player," Jones says.

"If it doesn't happen for me, that's what it is, but I know I'm doing the best I can.

"I was warned about how much of a stickler he is. He knows all the minute details of play, down to where you should be standing for a penalty, so I was well primed and that is exactly how he was."

Belfast Telegraph


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