Wales wing and newly crowned Scarlets captain Mark Jones today announced he has been handed the honour of a testimonial season for the 2009/2010 campaign by his region - and he revealed fundraising has got off to the best of starts after the England cricket team donated a signed 2009 Ashes shirt to the cause.
Jones, who is a keen cricket fan and was at the first Test of the series this year in Cardiff, now has an even greater vested interest in England winning the series with the price of the jersey set to soar if the Ashes can be brought home next week.
And he dropped in at the Millennium Stadium to send a personal good luck message via the ground's big screens (see picture) to all-rounder Freddie Flintoff - whose battle to recover from knee problems is one that is close to Jones' heart - after being touched by the gesture from his cricketing colleagues.
"I have absolutely no problem supporting England in the Ashes, it's the England and Wales Cricket Board after all," said Jones.
"But the fact that the team have gone out of their way to sign this shirt and send it over for me at such a busy time for them is pretty humbling to be honest.
"It was great to see them in Cardiff, even though it was a drawn match it had plenty of excitement and I wish them all the very best for next week now.
"Freddie will be putting himself through the mill to ensure that he is fit but he also won't want to let his teammates down by playing if he isn't right."
Jones - who could well face Australia himself in Welsh rugby's version of the Ashes in the Invesco Perpetual Series at the Millennium Stadium next November, as Wales attempt to retain the James Bevan Trophy - knows all about knee injuries after going through successive reconstructions on each of his joints.
Surgery and rehab to consecutive injuries on both knees kept Jones away from international rugby for the best part of three years from 2003, before he made his comeback in a Wales jersey in the 2006 Six Nations.
"There were plenty of occasions when I could've kidded myself that I was fit and taken a cap for club or country but that is something that is a definite 'no, no' for a professional sportsman.
"Freddie will be going through some mental turmoil as well as doing everything he can to get himself physically right.
"I don't know anything about the detail of his injury, just what I've heard, but if he does make it onto the pitch it will be because he feels he is capable of doing a job for the team and that can only be good for England and the rest of us watching.
"I really do wish him and his team-mates the very best of luck. Not just because it will give my testimonial season an even bigger boost, but because from what I've seen, they deserve to get something out of this series."
Jones and his committee are in the early stages of planning for his testimonial year, but he is keen to get some of the charities that are close to his heart involved and he knows there will be an auction at some stage when the Ashes shirt should take centre stage.
"It's very early days for me at the moment, but it's simply a great honour for the Scarlets to have awarded me a testimonial year at all," added Jones.
"There are only a few players who are chosen and in the year that they have made me captain I feel all the more honoured.
"I signed up as an 18-year-old and have been a career Scarlet, in ten years I've had some great times with the club and hopefully there are plenty more to come.
"I still feel 23 years old and I like to think I have a good few years ahead of me, but that won't stop me making the most of my testimonial year hopefully to the benefit of my family and one or two of the charities that are close to our hearts as well."
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