Phil Bennett hails retiring Stephen Jones as another Scarlets legend
STEPHEN Jones will call time on an illustrious playing career at the end of the season, with Phil Bennett backing Wales's most-capped international to be a big success as a coach.
After 17 years at the top of the game, Jones has announced his retirement to take up a coaching post with his current club London Wasps.
Jones's rugby journey, which started out in Llanelli in 1996, has seen him win 104 caps for his country and six for the British Lions, accumulating 970 Test points along the way.
He enjoyed two spells with the Scarlets, sandwiching a stint at Clermont Auvergne, before his switch to Wasps last summer.
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The next stage of that journey will see him cut his coaching teeth under Wasps director of rugby Dai Young at Adams Park, potentially in a post as backs or skills coach.
"It is great to see that Stephen has being given a coaching role with Wasps," said Llanelli, Wales and Lions great Bennett, himself widely regarded as one of the finest No.10s of all time.
"Hopefully, he can get some valuable experience coaching in the Premiership under Dai Young and then maybe he can come back to Wales one day.
"He has spoken about the Scarlets being the club dear to his heart, it would be fantastic to see him back here in a coaching capacity.
"Stephen has been a wonderful role model for younger players and the one thing that has stood out throughout his career is his attitude.
"I was speaking to some of the Wasps coaching team at the start of the season when I was a guest for a game at Bath and they couldn't speak highly enough about his professionalism.
"I remember Stephen when he first came through at Stradey. Frano Botica was fly-half at the time and was doing some kicking practice after training. Who was out there with him? Stephen Jones.
"He has worked incredibly hard at his game throughout the career and has been up against some class fly-halves for Wales over the years.
"It is testament to his ability and work ethic that he still managed to win more than a century of caps and played in six Tests for the Lions. He deserves all the accolades and plaudits he gets and I wish him all the best in his new role."
Jones has made 11 appearances for Wasps in a season that has been hampered by injury.
Looking forward to his new post he said: "I feel incredibly lucky to have played for some fantastic sides down through the years and I feel the time is right for me now to make the transition into coaching, which is what I have always wanted to do.
"There is an opportunity for me to do that at London Wasps and I am very excited about the next step of my career. I want to say a huge thanks to everyone at the Scarlets, Clermont Auvergne and London Wasps — and I feel grateful to have worn three fantastic professional club shirts in my career.
"I also feel honoured to have pulled on the Wales and British and Irish Lions shirts and I appreciate everyone involved in those sides as well as the supporters who have been there and backed me throughout my playing days. I am taking with me some incredible memories and experiences."
Wasps director of rugby Young added: "I always thought Stephen would make an excellent coach and everything I have seen of him this season backs that up. It is sad to see him retire but what we are losing on the field we are gaining off it."