After celebrating promotion to the Premiership with Bridgend last season and then joining the Wales U20 squad for the Junior World Championship in Italy, Ross Jones has described his move to the Ospreys last summer as "the best decision of my life".
The 19-year old full-back was brought back to Wales on a three-year development contract after spending 10 years living in Dublin, where he represented Leinster at age-grade and was capped by Ireland at U18 level in last year’s Five Nations Festival.
Along with his fellow U20 internationals he reported back for pre-season training this week to prepare for his second year with the region, and looking back at his first twelve months, Llanelli born Jones is in no doubt that it was the right move to swap Leinster’s Academy for the Elite Development Pathway at the Ospreys.
“It was definitely the right move for me” he said.
“It’s been the best decision of my life. I don’t think I’d have improved like I have and moved on as much as I have if I’d stayed in Ireland. The Ospreys have given me a great chance, I’ve had plenty of support from everybody here and I hope that I can continue improving and repay them.”
Shortly after arriving in Ospreylia he was sidelined with a shoulder injury that needed surgery, keeping him out of action beyond the turn of the year. But, with the help of the medical and conditioning teams he was soon back in action, going on to make a big impact at the Riverside Hardware Brewery Field. He acknowledges there were some frustrations in his early days as an Osprey, but says he was grateful for the support he received.
“It was frustrating at times, but the physios really helped me and got me back playing as soon as they could. Just being in a new environment helped me, it was a boost for me. Seeing how a professional rugby team operates close up, and being a part of the Ospreys set-up, is a fantastic experience.
“Once they got me fit again I was able to play for Bridgend and I really enjoyed it. I tried my best. The Bridgend boys were great to me and they welcomed me in as the new, young boy in the team and were really supportive of me.
“It’s easier to come into a team when they are doing well, going forward, it gives you the chance to enjoy your rugby and score. That’s what I did and I was happy that I took my opportunity. It couldn’t have gone any better for me in my first season here so I’m really happy.”
With a place in the Premiership secured, Jones faces a step up in opposition with Bridgend in the coming season, but he remains hopeful of making a good impression with the Ravens once again:
“I’m looking forward to it. The standard of rugby will be higher than I’m used to but it’s going to be an exciting challenge. It’s a good opportunity for me. Division One was good but I want to test myself. Hopefully I can make an impact in the Premiership. I know it’s going to be harder, there are good teams in that league, but it will be good to see how Bridgend go at that level.”
Having previously worn the green of Ireland, Jones was handed the chance to don the red of his home country when he was called into the Wales squad for the Junior World Championship in June, coming off the bench late on in the defeat again New Zealand before playing every minute of the remaining three games, scoring one try against Italy.
“If you’d told me last summer that I would go to the World Cup I’d have laughed” he said.
“I really wasn’t expecting it and got really lucky. I had some good games for Bridgend and was on standby, and because there were a couple of injuries I was able to go to Italy. I was very lucky to go but I think I took my chance. The New Zealand game didn’t go very well but there were highlights. I was pleased to score a try against Italy, and beating Ireland in the last game was very emotional for me.
“I knew the majority of the boys in the Ireland team, I think six or seven were in the U18’s squad with me last year, but I’ve played with or against the majority of them in Ireland. I only sang the Welsh anthem before the match, I kept very quiet when the Irish one came on!”
With the U20 contingent having a delayed return to training, Jones is now focusing on the new season, and the challenge that lie ahead. He added:
“I’ve got to keep on working hard and take any chance that I get. I’m still young and still learning, so I’ve got to keep working hard in training and with Bridgend, and I hope to make an impact in the Premiership. If I do well there maybe a chance in the LV= Cup with the Ospreys, but the focus will be to go hard with Bridgend and take it from there.”