Jones poised to set new milestone
Stephen Jones is poised to finally break Wales' international appearance record in the World Cup clash against Namibia on Monday.
The Scarlets fly-half should have done it seven weeks ago, but he was forced to withdraw from Wales' opening World Cup warm-up Test appointment with England at Twickenham. His calf muscle tightened just 10 minutes before kick-off and Jones has not played since.
But he is now set for a recall in a much-changed side for the Pool D encounter at Stadium Taranaki, New Plymouth. It would be Jones' 101st cap, erasing the current record figure of 100 that he shares with Gareth Thomas. "If that is the case, I will look forward to it," Jones said, ahead of coach Warren Gatland's team announcement on Saturday.
"I am delighted to be training with the guys again - you feel part of the squad. There is a good vibe here and we are looking for a good performance against Namibia.
"It would be a massive honour (to break the record), but first things first. It is great being back with the guys, trying to get up to speed with all the moves and the game plan and just enjoying being integrated with the squad again."
Namibia have conceded 185 points in their three games so far and they face just a four-day turnaround after being battered 87-0 by South Africa in Auckland on Thursday. An anticipated bonus-point win for Wales would leave them needing to beat Fiji on Sunday week to secure a probable quarter-final against Ireland in Wellington.
"We are aware of what is potentially on the horizon," Jones added. "But we have just got to concentrate on what is immediately ahead. Fiji is a big game, but so is Namibia, and we have to get things right for that. Namibia are a very physical outfit.
"Hopefully, my fitness will be okay. I've put a lot of work in, and I just have to try to get up to speed with the game plan, the patterns of play and what the coaches demand from us. It's all about momentum now. We're aware of what is on the horizon - potentially exciting times - but we cannot take our eye off the ball. We have to perform."
Jones is expected to start instead of a rested Rhys Priestland, who impressed against South Africa and Samoa, and Wales' cap centurion believes his Scarlets colleague has deserved all the praise he received.
"He is a good guy and I have a lot of respect for him," Jones said. "As a player he is top drawer. He works hard on his game. He has played brilliantly and is comfortable with the game plan. He is intelligent, he puts the hours in and it shows in his performances."