As he returns to Ospreylia ahead of the forthcoming U20 Six Nations campaign, teenage lock Jack Jones is hoping to use his loan experience in Italy as a spingboard to bigger and better things with his home region.
The 19-year old is midway through a season long loan spell with one of the Ospreys’ two official partner clubs in Italy, Rovigo, looking to follow in the fototsteps of Scott Baldwin who used a similar loan with ASR Milano last season to assist his development on and off the field before cementing his play in the Ospreys senior squad on his return, and Neath born Jones will be looking for a similar outcome.
Reporting back for training duty at the region’s Llandarcy HQ before meeting up with his international colleagues, Jones took the opportunity to reflect on his experiences this season in Italy.
“I’ve really enjoyed it” he said.
“It’s been a good experience so far. It was a massive shock to the system when I first went out, the first couple of weeks were hard, but then after getting to know all the boys and finding my way about the rugby took care of itself really.
“Rugby wise there wasn’t too much of an issue, there were a few boys who speak English and once you’ve learnt something it sticks with you. I’ve been having Italian lessons in a class with a few of the boys so it’s been like being back in school. I know little bits, I know enough to get by.”
Jones has been a regular starter for the 11 times Italian champions this season, gaining his first taste of European rugby with four appearances in Rovigo’s Amlin Cup campaign, against Perpignan, Worcester and Spain’s Bizkaia Gernika. Despite suffering some heavy defeats in Europe, Jones says that the standard of rugby at Rovigo has been better than he expected:
“It’s been really good. Every club is allowed a certain number of foreigners and the standard of rugby is quite good. I was actually surprised how good it was.
“It’s been pretty tough in the Amlin, playing against teams like Perpignan and Worcester. We were well beaten in those games but it’s another great experience for me, a notch in the belt to be playing at that standard.
“I’m coming back a better player than I was last summer. It’s not just on the field, it’s helped me off the field as well. It’s just small things, it’s confidence. To go away to live in another country where you don’t know anyone, you’re obviously going to develop as a person, off the field as well as on it so you’re benefiting twice over really.”
Having suffered injury problems that restricted his involvement in last season’s Six Nations, Jones is hoping for a good run of games this time around that will make the right impression on the Ospreys coaching team, and hopefully, lay the foundations for him to follow in the footsteps of some of his young Ospreys colleagues who have made the step up this season.
“Hopefully now I can get in a good campaign, and maybe get my starting position” said Jones.
“That’s what I’m aiming to do now, and get a few games under my belt with the Wales U20s.
“The coaches here haven’t really seen me for the last four months so while I’m training back at Llandarcy it is important for me to show up well. It’s a good time to show that I’ve improved on the field and off the field, and hopefully, when I get game time with the U20s they’ll be watching.
“The goal long term is to get an Ospreys jersey. I’ve seen what some of the boys have done here this season and it’s exciting to be honest. If I want to achieve the same I know I’ve got to keep progressing as a player, work hard to earn my spot in an LV game, and then try to take that chance. I’m just looking forward to that opportunity if and when it comes.”