Lyn Jones relishing challenge of keeping London Welsh in Premiership
LYN Jones could be forgiven for feeling satisfied with himself after returning to the big time with London Welsh.
After all, when he left the Ospreys four years ago, he was effectively stuck on a roundabout with all roads heading for a town called Uncertainty.
One of a kind, the ex-Neath flanker had done things his way, frequently saying what was on his mind and occasionally discovering that his less than orthodox ways hadn't exactly been celebrated by everyone.
So there were no career guarantees, no option of popping down to his Job Centre and asking them to alert him should any front-line coaching jobs come in. Rugby tends not to work like that.
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But Jones is back. It has taken a while, and he stopped off at the Dragons and a private school in Abu Dhabi en route, but next term he will be involved at the top level again, having overseen London Welsh's promotion to the promised land of the Aviva Premiership.
He has needed 12 months to guide the Exiles into the top tier, reinforcing his reputation as a coach who works quickly.
At Neath he and Daryl Jones required a season to deliver a title. At the Ospreys, Jones and Sean Holley needed two campaigns to bring in silverware, going on to lift three trophies in four campaigns. Europe, of course, proved beyond them, but Jones is a coach who knows how to get the job done.
But he refuses to see London Welsh's success as being a thumb in the eye to anyone.
"I have never felt I had a point to prove," he said.
"People asked me the same question when I was at the Dragons, and I told them then that I was in coaching because I loved the job and enjoyed seeing players realise their potential. That remains the case.
"At London Welsh, it's not about me; it's about the club, the officials and the players.
"That's what has pleased me so much about this promotion, that people around the club have been able to enjoy success. Everyone worked hard for it and we deserved it. London Welsh have a great history and it was great to add to it.
"Everybody has an ego in sport, but mine was knocked out of me a good few years ago. I just enjoy coaching and helping players develop."
London Welsh were unfancied at the start of last season and considered underdogs in the play-off final against Cornish Pirates.
But they prevailed on the pitch and then scored a success off the field by overturning an RFU decision to deny them entry into the Premiership on the grounds that they didn't have primacy of tenure at their nominated base for next term, Oxford United FC's Kassam Stadium.
"We're looking forward to the challenge," said Jones.
"Winning promotion to the Premiership is a big deal. Taking the Welsh league title with Neath in 1996 by beating Cardiff on the final night of the campaign was special and so was the Ospreys' first Celtic League success, because it was achieved a year or two ahead of schedule.
"But I'd say London Welsh reaching the Premiership is up there.
"It reminds me of where the Ospreys were in 2003. We were starting out in regional rugby and there was an element of not knowing how we'd cope. We made a few mistakes but we also did plenty of things right because we became a hard side to beat and won silverware.
"Exeter have shown it is possible for a newly promoted side to succeed in the Premiership, so we have to be encouraged by that. It's about having consistency in your game, the right ingredients."
Sonny Parker has joined from the Ospreys, while Welsh continue to be linked with Gavin Henson, a player whose career peaked under Jones at the Ospreys. The club's managing director John Taylor has indicated they could resume talks with Welsh rugby's long-lost talent, but Henson will need to buy into the team ethic.
Of Parker, Jones said: "He will add something. He has played international rugby and has been lightly used by the Ospreys over the past couple of seasons. He will fit in well."