Welcome return for Jones

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The Independent Online
Over the years, I must confess, the small campaigns which have been conducted in this column have not enjoyed the greatest fortune. Indeed, they have often produced a result opposite to that intended.

For many seasons I urged Rob Andrew and Stuart Barnes to split the outside-half and full-back positions between them. Instead they contested the former position alone. And Barnes (who perhaps would have done better to opt for Wales) turned out to be the loser.

Then there was another outside- half, Aled Williams of Swansea, who I thought deserved an extended run in the national side. Nothing happened. My efforts on behalf of the Neath, Llanelli and now Treorchy flanker, Lyn Jones, were equally unavailing.

I accordingly thought a period of silence on my part would be welcome to those players who were ambitious of international recognition and had happened to catch my eye. Nothing but damage to their careers, I regretfully concluded, would result from any commendations on my part.

There was, however, one exception: Robert Jones. I was not prepared to keep quiet about him. There were two reasons for this. One was that he was already an established international player. The other was that, well, it was impossible - such was the manifest injustice being done to him - to remain silent about his continuing omission from the Welsh side.

That injustice has now been remedied, not before time. It is being generally assumed that Jones is being restored to enable Wales to play a more open game. Against France at Parc des Princes, this would be madness - even though Wales have, in Wayne Proctor and Nigel Walker, the two fastest wings in the Five Nations' Championship.

We all know Jones has a long, quick pass. But he is also a consummate kicker of the ball into the corners. Had everyone forgotten how, in the Cardiff rain six years ago, he defeated England virtually single-handed with his metronomic kicks to touch of which his father-in-law, Clive Rowlands, would have been proud?

The Welsh back row is certainly solid. Alas, it is little more, though Richie Collins (33 in March) has enjoyed a spirited return to international rugby. Stuart Davies was a good club No 8 and remained one when he was playing for Wales. He is now at No 6, even though he cannot hold down a regular position in the Swansea side. Phil Davies, the No 8, is a fine player but I cannot see him skipping around Parc des Princes like a spring lamb.

The injuries to Emyr Lewis and Hemi Taylor should have provided Wales with the opportunity to try some younger players such as Rory Jenkins. Is it impossible to produce a back row who are not quite so near to claiming their Railcards?

From Wales to England: no one seems to have pointed out quite how embarrassing the relegation of Harlequins to the Second Division, if it came about, could turn out to be. It would not simply be a question of the toffs' club biting the dust, doubtless t o much sniggering north of Watford. The future of three current England players - Will Carling, Jason Leonard and Brian Moore - would also be in doubt.

Moore has already said that he hopes to play international rugby after this summer's World Cup. It would be surprising if Carling and Leonard, who are both younger, took a different view of their futures.

And yet Jack Rowell has made it fairly clear that he will not consider anyone for the national side who does not play regularly in the Courage First Division. When Saracens were in that lower division, Ben Clarke moved from them to Bath to better himself; while Leonard was persuaded to join Quins.

Today, Saracens look virtually certain to be promoted to the First Division. Perhaps Leonard will end up by rejoining them. What Carling and Moore will do I do not know.

The position of poor Steve Ojomoh who has made overtures both to Quins and to the still more imperilled Northampton, is equally precarious. However, the Welsh selectors have adopted, though not yet chosen, Jenkins, the Quins No 7, because he has a Welsh grandmother. They do not seem over-concerned about the possibility of his club's relegation. Perhaps Ojomoh should have discovered a Welsh grandmother too.