Having hung up his boots in 2018, Jones is now a forwards coach at Harlequins and has spent the last three years or so years masterminding how to get the most out of England’s Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler (who now calls Bristol home) among others. In a recent in-depth interview with Ross Harries on TheXV.rugby, Jones explains how he viewed the Wales England Autumn Nations Cup match in Llanelli.
“I think England just won the hit a few times, and it’s an easier penalty to award then if you do go down. The hit is coming back into the game, certainly here in the (Gallagher) Premiership, it’s a massive factor. Mako’s very quick out of the blocks, Kyle’s quick as well. They were into shape pretty swiftly so if Wales did flatten out or hinge, then England were seen to have won the engagement – whether it was the right or wrong call is purely the ref’s interpretation.”
He’s an open admirer of the England pack, and their front-row forwards in particular.
“Look, that England pack is pretty good. People don’t appreciate how good a scrummager Mako is, probably because he’s so good at the other bits – his carrying, his breakdown work, his tackle count. He can do things other props can’t do, as can Kyle. They’re both incredibly powerful and explosive. Kyle’s not big for an international tight-head, but technically, he’s really good. Jamie George is a test Lion, then you’ve got 125kg of Joe Launchbury, and Maro Itoje behind them, and Billy between the two of them. It’s a pretty big old pack.”
Jones won the first of his 95 Welsh caps way back in 2003, against England, but now the Abercrave-born tighthead prop admits, that as a spectator of Test matches, he spends much of time willing his proteges to do well.
“My focus is on developing English props, and that’s the big thing for me. Because I don’t play anymore, I get the buzz from watching the props I coach improve and develop. I spoke to Kyle (Sinkler) over text last night about the Wales-England game. Even though he’s left for Bristol, I still feel connected.
“A massive part of my coaching experience has been helping the likes of him, Joe Marler, Will Collier and these guys. Getting Simon Kerrod into the wider England squad. He’s done amazingly well, having been third choice at Worcester two years ago. That’s what I enjoy now, and the fact they’re English props doesn’t mean anything to me; I just enjoy seeing these guys get to the highest level.”
Naturally, Jones still wants Wales to win when they’re playing the Old Enemy, but he wants his cake and to eat it too.
“I always want Wales to win, but I’ve gone into games during the last four years with Kyle playing, with Joe playing, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want them to do well. If Wales win and the Welsh scrum gets hammered by the two props I coach, then that’s probably the perfect outcome for me.”
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