Determined Jones keeps coming back for more
Plagued by injuries during his career, Munster’s Leinster-born fullback is just focused on the next challenge
Munster fullback Felix Jones: “If the ball comes my way it is great. The more ball I get the better.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
When it’s brought up yet again Felix Jones’s eyebrows rise, presumably feigning interest, and he gives a neutral smile.
It comes with the territory now. He knows this. Getting the latest internal tear repaired. And then having to talk about it.
Knees, shoulders, biceps, foot, ankle and most worrying of all neck, you name it, Jones has torn, ruptured or dislocated it. Fifteen weeks on the mend this time. Serious injury number six in his professional career. A double dose: torn labrum and bicep.
He played through the pain last season, even touring North America in June despite the ripping of muscle off bone.
He played well when winning his fifth cap in Toronto. The usual really; solid, reliable. Injured.
Carrying such wounds must have played on his mind leading up to that epic day at The Stoop or down in Montpelier or on tour.
“No. I understand the question but when I go out to train or play I am either all into it or not at all.”
That’s part of the problem. Now 26 already, imagine the type of player he could become if that body of his would stop shredding up?
“Felix has all the tools to become a fantastic fullback,” wrote Geordan Murphy in his autobiography after the eleventh hour reprieve before the 2011 World Cup came when Jones broke his foot against France in the penultimate warm-up match.
“I saw him play for Ireland under-20s in 2007,” Murphy continued. “Luke Fitzgerald got called up to the national squad, so Felix got his chance against Wales and took it.”
By “took it” Murphy was alluding to Jones’ two tries as Ireland reversed a 15-0 deficit to win 17-15 en route to a Grand Slam.
Munster team-mates this afternoon in Murrayfield, Ian Keatley and Keith Earls, were also part of Eric Elwood’s squad. Tommy O’Donnell, injured himself at present, came off the bench for Seán O’Brien, while Darren Cave, Paul O’Donohoe and Jamie Hagan also featured.
But it was Jones’ late arrival after Fitzgerald was whisked up the pecking order that was the most interesting story.
He’s a product of Seapoint RFC (where his Dad, Alfie, is a former president) and St Andrew’s College of all places. Not exactly a rugby bastion, yet David Jones, his former coach in school, feels his background suits the Munster environs better than his home province.
“The move from Leinster was probably the best thing he did. It was difficult for him at that time. He was coming from a minor club and minor school. We play section B in the league and our cup experiences aren’t anything to write home about.
“Being from a junior club makes it difficult to stick out. He probably wasn’t getting the opportunities at Leinster that he possibly deserved. The move to Munster was good for him. I think he fits in well, nothing against Leinster, but the psyche in Munster at the time when he signed. The Munster machine was in full effect.”
Not that he sought to move south. Rob Kearney and Isa Nacewa, with the Fitzgerald option thrown in, was too great a mountain to scale back in 2008.
Michael Cheika supposedly blew his top on hearing of Jones’ defection, but he made a name for himself playing for Ireland under-20s. He was in demand.
“Felix also showed well for Leinster against Leicester in a pre-season friendly,” Murphy continued. “The club were looking for a fullback and I suggested him . . . if Munster hadn’t signed him up, he could have been the guy to come over and probably eventually replace me.”