Mark Jones sees bright future for youthful Scarlets
SCARLETS backs coach Mark Jones believes his young three-quarter line can come of age this season.
The departures of veteran fly-half Stephen Jones and Scotland wing Sean Lamont have left Jones to work with a pool of exciting young backs, brimming with talent but lacking in experience. The eldest back currently on the region's books is Morgan Stoddart at 27.
But while losing such an influential figure as Jones — a double British Lion with more than a century of Wales caps — is sure to leave a void in the squad, backs coach Jones is confident the youngsters, some of whom have already savoured a World Cup and Six Nations Grand Slam, can take on a collective responsibility.
"Stephen was a huge character within the squad and has proven himself at the highest level," he said.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
"He had a huge amount of influence on the younger players in terms of work ethic that he brought to his own game and analysis of his own performance. But Stephen is gone and if everyone can drive themselves as hard as they can Monday to Friday, then I think the load can be shared.
"When you turn to just one or two players to bring the responsibility and the communication, then the team suffers. This has got to be a collective thing, we can't afford to carry anyone and it might help us having less established figures here. It will allow others to develop in the group."
Despite the loss of Jones and Lamont, the Scarlets will still be able to put out an all- international back division next season.
And that includes one of the forgotten men of Welsh rugby in Stoddart, who is close to returning to action after recovering from a double leg fracture in the World Cup warm-up match against England at Twickenham last summer. "Morgan is a quality player whose line-breaking ability is second to none. He is still a bit sore after training, but he looks sharp at the moment," said Jones.
"He has got the mindset and hunger for this. If he wanted to retire he would have done, but the fact he is still training hard and putting himself through this day to day suggests he is still hungry for rugby.
"He will be like a new signing and he will become a bit of a leader for us as well, especially in the early part of the year, helping the young kids come through."
Jones is also hoping the likes of Adam Warren, Nick Reynolds and Jordan Williams can push the more established internationals at Parc y Scarlets.
"Adam made a huge amount of gains last season, he looked a different animal at the end of the season and is working hard on his skills all the time," added the former Wales wing.
"Nick is another looking really good in pre-season. I was really confident he could break though last season, but he picked up a couple of injuries and it didn't quite happen for him. He is a little bit different to Scott and Jon, more of a traditional outside centre, who likes that outside break.
"And then you have someone like Jordan, who technically is as good as anything I have played with or against. He is inch perfect with his passing, his footwork is superb and he can kick off both feet. The work he will be doing will be on communication, understanding the game, how to run the game and how to order people around.
"He is a quiet lad, so those things become more difficult. But he is very much like Rhys Priestland was at that age.
"All of a sudden Rhys became a different animal, comfortable ordering people around. Hopefully, by developing Jordan at 15, while still giving him the opportunity to play at 10, we can see him come through like Rhys did."