Stephen Jones with Invesco Perpetual Series Tickets
Scarlets outside half Stephen Jones is the new man to lead Wales into the Invesco Perpetual Series next month and through to the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
Gareth Jenkins opted for the 28-year-old after considering a number of candidates. When he leads Wales in the four match Invesco Perpetual Series it won't be the first time Jones has worn the captain's arm band. He led both Wales U18 Schools and Wales U21 and skippered the full Welsh team against England in 2003.
"This is a great honour for myself, my club and my family and I am grateful to Gareth and the management team for giving me the opportunity to lead my country," said Jones. "The role of captain of the Wales rugby team is one of the greatest in Welsh sport. It is something I have had a brief taste of in the past and it is a position I now feel ready to fill on a longer term basis.
"It is an exciting new challenge for me and I am looking forward to working with the players and management to ensure we are able to prepare properly for the 2007 RBS Six Nations and Rugby World Cup campaigns. These are exciting times for Welsh rugby with a high level of competition for places.
"I have been fortunate to play under some great captains in my time with the Scarlets, Clermont, Wales and the British Lions and I know that I won't be on my own when I am out there. With such experienced leaders as the likes of Gareth Thomas, Duncan Jones and Martyn Williams in the squad I will have plenty of people to turn to if I need some help.
"Alfie (Gareth Thomas) has been a superb captain, his enthusiasm is infectious, he is well liked throughout the squad and it is good to know he will be there alongside me. We started something at the 2003 Rugby World Cup with our performances against New Zealand and England that led to us winning the Grand Slam in 2005.
"We have 14 international matches to play before we kick-off our 2007 Rugby World Cup campaign against Canada in Nantes, next month we will take our first steps down a long road and the aim is to get everything right in that time to ensure we can be as competitive as possible against the best teams in the world.
"We kick-off with the game against Australia in the opening game in the Invesco Perpetual Series next week and we couldn't have asked for a tougher, or better, start to what promises to be an incredible 12 months.
"The captaincy won't change me - I'll approach the job with a smile on my face as always and hopefully ensure we have a happy camp with a strong work ethic. If I can achieve that, as captains before me have done, then I will be happy with my lot. The experience I have of professional rugby at international level tells me that you have to be realistic, you learn not to get carried away when you win or too down when you lose, just concentrate on the job in hand, work hard and you can achieve anything."
STEPHEN MICHAEL JONES Club: Llanelli Scarlets
Position: Fly half
Weight: 14st 0lbs
International record: 56 caps
(W 26, D 1, L 29; 506 pts - 6T, 91C, 95PG, 3DG)
1999 C(rep) - World Cup - J(rep)
2003 S,I,F,A,NZ,E - World Cup - T,It(rep),NZ,E
Lions - 3 caps 2005 NZ (1,2 rep,3; 14 pts - 1C,4PG)
Stephen Michael Jones, who returned to Llanelli Scarlets in the summer after two seasons in France with ASM Clermont Auvergne, first captained Wales against England in 2003 as his country's 120th captain. He made his debut as a 50th minute replacement in the match against South Africa at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, on 27 June, 1998 after leading the Wales U21 to Grand Slam glory. He also captained Wales at U18 level.
Jones featured in all three tests for the 2005 Lions against the All Blacks, scoring 14 points in the third Test. He was the 16th player to win 50 Welsh caps and his 506 Test points make him the second highest scorer in Welsh international rugby behind Neil Jenkins (1,049). He overtook Paul Thorburn (304) in the 2004 Championship match against France.
He was the third player to top 500 points in the Heineken Cup and has currently scored 599 points (562 for the Scarlets and 37 for Clermont) in 52 tournament appearances. He has also played at full back and in the centre for his country.
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.