Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Jones Throws Down Gauntlet to Jonny

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Jones Throws Down Gauntlet to Jonny

Article excerpt

Byline: By Andrew Baldock

Stephen Jones will not be worrying about Jonny Wilkinson when he lines up against the New Zealand Maori today.

Welsh Grand Slam star Jones gets the chance to put his Test credentials on the line this weekend, with Wilkinson having to wait until next Wednesday's Wellington clash.

If Jones shines against the toughest opponents the Lions will meet outside of Graham Henry's All Blacks, then Newcastle Falcons hero Wilkinson faces an uphill battle.

When the RBS 6 Nations Championship ended in March, Lions rookie Jones was installed as a red-hot favourite for Test number 10 duties, especially given Wilkinson's prolonged struggle to prove his fitness ahead of the New Zealand trip.

But with Wilkinson belatedly added to the Lions party ( and current England fly-half Charlie Hodgson producing a blistering display against Taranaki in midweek ( it is a position demanding close scrutiny from Sir Clive Woodward and his coaching team.

"You are in a situation where all you can do is concentrate on your own game and your own performance," said Jones.

"There are so many quality players in the squad that you can't look around to see what's going on, you've got to be focused on your own role and responsibilities.

"There are 11 games on the tour and the Tests will be coming around quite shortly, so you are not going to be given many opportunities. You have to make sure you perform, and perform well, in the games you are given.

"For me, personally, being on this tour is very special. I probably wouldn't be able to do it justice if I tried to describe how you feel as an individual when you get selected for a Lions tour," he added.

"You just need look at the history of the Lions, and there have been a lot of Welsh Lions, legends like Barry John and Phil Bennett. It is a huge honour to be here."

Jones' decision to play his club rugby in France with Clermont Auvergne last term after several campaigns at Llanelli, reaped rich dividends. …

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