Rob Jones to Join LWTL in New Zealand for his 3rd tour with LWTL
Living With The Lions Sports Travel are very excited to announce another one of our ambassadors on the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand. Ex-scrum-half, Robert Jones, won 54 caps for Wales and 3 for the British Lions. He is also widely remembered for his part in the start of the Battle of Ballymore in 1989.
Many felt that Jones also had the finest pass in the game during his career and any rugby aficionado will recall that fantastic reverse pass he delivered to Jonathan Davies prior to the fly half scoring arguably the individual try of the 1988 5 Nations tournament. Wales went on to win the Triple Crown that year.
We caught up with Rob and asked him for his views on the upcoming tour, some stand out memories from his career, a list of his favourite players (past and present) and a prediction for the New Zealand series. At LWTL we can’t wait for the tour to get started and for Robert to be part of it.
1. What are you most looking forward to about the tour to New Zealand?
Being amongst rugby loving people in the most fanatical of all rugby nations. The Lions is special for all of us in the 4 Nations, players and supporters, and we get the chance to be part of it every 4 years. In NZ, they love the sport so much and they only get to play against the Lions every 12 years, that’s why this is so huge for them, and makes this tour extra special.
2. Which current Lions squad member would you be most excited to play with and why?
There are so many great players on this tour, Gatland has had a difficult decision in selection about who to leave out, not just who to take. Justin Tipuric is from my home village of Trebanos and he is a fantastic athlete and rugby player. His game awareness and skill levels are exceptional and I just think he adds a new dimension to back row play. The question is whether he will start the Tests with so much backrow talent and Sam as captain!
3. Two Scottish players selected: critical oversight by the coaching team or a justifiable response to the defeat by England?
Not an oversight, just the reality of the strength in depth we have in British rugby at the moment. Whilst you can put a case for a number of Scots who performed well in the 6 Nations, there are probably stronger arguments for those players Gatland has selected. The Gray brothers are two good examples – great players but would you select them ahead of the locks going, probably not. The same can be said of Finn Russell, probably the unluckiest in my eyes. Farrell and Sexton were certainties, then a toss-up between Ford, Russell and Bigger, with Gatland going for the safe pair of hands in Dan Bigger, someone he knows and can rely upon.
4. Do you have a standout memory and an opponent you would preferred to have played with rather than against from the tour in 1989?
My obvious memory is the punch up with my old friend Nick Farr Jones in the second test which became known as the battle of Ballymore! Ian McGeechan identified a major strength in the Aussie captain’s influence on their first test performance and decided that I would be the man to ‘focus on knocking him off his game’!!!! The rest is history as they say! Australia had some great players, Lynagh, Farr Jones, Cutler to name a few. However, one of their greatest, who actually had a poor test series that year, David Campese, was something different. He will go down as one of the greatest attacking players we have ever seen and having been on the wrong side of his trickery on so many occasions, I would have loved to have played alongside him.
5. It’s a World Cup Final Wales are playing Australia and you’re at scrum half. Who would you like at No 8. and Fly half? Past or present.
Another difficult question with so many great players at 8 and 10 throughout the years but I will stick with who I know and admire at 10, Jonathan Davies(Jiffy). A fantastic all round fly half who oozed confidence and self-belief. We never saw the best of him in Union, but he was a special talent. At 8, well a tough choice, with Phil Davies, Paul Moriarty and Stuart Davies all great Welsh performers during my day, but I’m going for a guy who has now established himself on the World game and could have a big influence on the Series result in NZ, Taulupe Faletau! Outstanding with ball in hand, defensively and at the breakdown, and up with Reid as the best 8’s in the world game.
6. And a prediction: 1st test final score and who comes out on top in the series…?
Not going to be popular, but I think NZ will win the series 2 – 1, although I think it will go down to the final test, with NZ winning the first, say 32 – 21 and the Lions claiming the second. This could all change overnight if either of the teams lose key players, but NZ rugby, and the incredible depth of skilled talent they have, puts them, and has for so long put them, at the very top of world rugby.