Felix Jones is not in the business of counting the minutes he gets in an Ireland jersey, but he has 80 of them to make an impression when he lines out at full-back against Georgia tomorrow.
After a six-minute cameo off the bench as a replacement for Rob Kearney in last weekend’s famous victory over South Africa, Jones will be in the starting XV, replacing the first-choice full-back in a new-look backline to face the tier-two nation from Eastern Europe at the Aviva Stadium.
“You always want to get on the pitch, get as much time as you can but the philosophy here is to make the minutes count, not count the minutes, so when I get on I try to put my best foot forward and I did what I could,” Jones told the Irish Examiner yesterday.
Schmidt has during Ireland’s Guinness Series training camp spoken of his admiration for Jones’ ~diligence and work ethic, traits that have come to be pre-requisites for survival in his squads.
“That’s probably something I’ve always tried to do,” the Munster full-back said. “It’s a routine by now, that you know certain things by a certain day so you have your analysis done, you’re ticking your boxes by this day or that.
“That didn’t happen straight away, it is definitely a learning curve and I’ve tried to be diligent over the last couple of years. That’s just a part of being a professional, in my eyes anyway. It mightn’t suit other guys who might need more time off mentally between (games) but for myself I prefer to be as mentally prepared as possible.”
Such is that mental preparation 48 hours out from kick off against the Georgians, a request for straightforward assessment of last weekend’s backline performance against the Springboks is met with a blank look.
“There was definitely good and bad,” Jones begins before giving up the ghost, “but you have me there. I’ve already parked it, to be honest, so I’m a little bit stumped. Mentally I’ve made the switch, it’s late in the week and we’re just focused on this weekend.”
Fair enough, so what about this weekend? The outside perception is the visit of tier-two Georgia affords Ireland an opportunity to cut loose but Jones says that ain’t necessarily so.
“The way we’re trying to play where we’re going to get the opportunities. So if that’s by going wide, if we don’t exploit it we’ll be disappointed. With regards this weekend, there might be an expectation we’re going out to throw the ball around, but that might not necessarily be the case. It could be very much about us going through our processes and putting ourselves in a position maybe to do that but maybe not.
“They’re massively physical. They could well be trying to keep it very tight and we might have to do the same. The forecast is for rain and so not necessarily (the wide game). The game will demand what it does, we’ll try go through our processes and see what comes of it.”
The idea of getting sucked into a rain-soaked arm-wrestle might be the definition of hell for back eager to make an impression but Jones is prepared to be frustrated.
“It can be (frustrating), definitely, but that could be what the game demands and for me it could end up being a massive kicking game where we might not be getting the ball off first phase in wide channels, we might be getting it in counter-attack where we’re having to do a lot of chase and grass cover. There’ll be plenty of work to do either way. We’re not underestimating them by any stretch.”
Schmidt will send out what appears a scratch backline tomorrow but Jones is happy to join the dots from fly-half Ian Madigan through a midfield of Gordon D’Arcy and Darren Cave to a back three of himself, Munster team-mate Simon Zebo and Craig Gilroy.
“Maybe to those outside we’re an unknown quantity but we’ve been in camp together and we’ve played together at under-age or A level, whatever the case may be,” he said.
“Myself and Zeebs, we’d have a good understanding of each other, I’ve played with Gilly before, played with Mads and Darce before. A lot of the lads would have played alongside each other at some stage.It might not have been last week but we’ve been running together, last week we ran the opposition plays together and there have been plenty of opportunities to build an understanding together.
“So there’ll be no excuses on our behalf if we don’t fire as a group together.”
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