SOME observers believe Munster pulled off a masterstroke last season when they lured Felix Jones away from his native Leinster.
The 22-year-old former Seapoint and Old Belvedere full-back or wing has a reputation as a very serious talent, which he proved as a key man in the Irish team that completed the U20 Grand Slam a couple of years ago. He doesn’t think his new employers stole him from Leinster, though.
“I certainly wouldn’t call it stealing,” he says. “The decision was up to myself and I just thought it was in my best interests to come down here. So far, I’ve been given a fair opportunity in the first few games.
“Obviously there will be guys coming back over the next few weeks and the competition will be fierce as it would be anywhere else. All I can do is control what I’m capable of and do my best.”
The very real prospect of playing against his native province at the RDS in Saturday week’s eagerly awaited Magners League clash really appeals to Jones: “I’d love it. It would be brilliant to play against guys I wouldn’t normally have had the chance to play against. I suppose it could be an intimidating atmosphere for a young Dubliner playing against Leinster. But they’re the games you want to be involved in, just like the Heineken Cup game in Northampton a week later.”
Jones learned his rugby at Seapoint, a junior club in Killiney.
“I played from under 7s all the way up to the age of 18 or 19,” he says. “I absolutely loved Seapoint and still love the place. Whenever I’m back up, I pop in.”
He earned his first cap with Leinster in the 2007-8 season against Connacht in the Galway Sportsground.
But it was always going to be difficult with the likes of Girvan Dempsey and Rob Kearney leading the pecking order, not to mention Luke Fitzgerald and Isa Nacewa. He couldn’t have been blamed for thinking he was stuck in a rugby cul de sac. Then Munster came calling. Tony McGahan and his management team have been loud in their praise of Jones’s performances, backing up those words by handing him the number 15 jersey.
“I’ll play anywhere just to get on the pitch but the back three preferably,” he confides. “The game is changing with the new rules and kicking is becoming so big that the back three is working as a unit. A wing could easily find himself in the full-back position and vice versa.
“And being able to play in a few different positions is important if you’re trying to get into a team.”
Now that he is a full-time rugby player, Jones is obliged to put everything else on the back burner. But he is also conscious that there is life outside the game and when time allows, plans for the future.
“I did my Arts degree in UCD in Classics and Geography which I really enjoyed and last year I started a Masters before training became too much to juggle with the studying,” he says. “I have the degree but I’d like to kick on. I’m not finished yet academically. I like the idea of teaching when I finish playing. With the time that we do have off, it is important to keep that area alive. There is no point in sitting in front of the television when you go home for hours on end and I think it would help your rugby as well, it would keep your brain ticking over.”
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