The Scarlets’ highest-ever point scorer and Wales’ most capped player, Stephen Jones has backed his region over the chance to appear for the first time in a Barbarians shirt.
To the delight of home supporters, Jones will be available for the big Newport Gwent Dragons fixture this Friday night at Parc y Scarlets (kick-off 7.05pm) to help the Scarlets continue on their unbeaten run in their last seven games and will celebrate his 300th appearance for the region.
After a strong start in the Heineken Cup to lead their group, the West Wales region resumes its RaboDirect Pro12 campaign and will be looking to push up the table from their spot in 8th and maintain their strong home record this season.
As well as a number of senior squad figures, the fixture will be a chance for supporters to see a group of the Scarlets’ emerging talent in action. With a host of fresh faces making big impressions this season in Scarlets colours, the region is building depth in its team. A great example of the investment in new talent includes Heineken Cup debut try scorer from last weekend, back row Mat Gilbert.
Scarlets Head Coach Nigel Davies said: “It’s a huge boost to the region and its supporters to have a player of the calibre and experience of Stephen Jones in the group in the build-up to this big fixture. It’s important we retain our momentum and keep our season on track in the league with our feet firmly on the ground.
“We’re all well aware of the level of intelligence, tactical awareness and spirit Steve is able to bring to our game in a Scarlets’ jersey – his loyalty and responsibility to this club is respected and appreciated by all our supporters and his colleagues. He’s such an astute player and to have him involved is a major boost for us.
“He’s made it clear he’s not ready to retire from international rugby yet and his commitment and input into his region and the impact of the advice and guidance he gives to the younger Scarlets players in our environment is plain to see.
“To reach 300 games for this club and 2,781 points is a remarkable achievement and shows the level of commitment and success he’s achieved with the Scarlets in 14 seasons in our shirt.
“He’s still enjoying his rugby and we’re pleased to have such a cool head involved with us again this week after a significant win last Friday night.”
Barbarians' secretary Alan Evans said: "We had very positive talks with the coaching staff at the Scarlets. They fully appreciated the honour it would have been for Stephen to play for us at this stage of his distinguished career but unfortunately their fixture commitments next weekend must take precedence."?
Stephen Jones said: “We’ve built up some great momentum at the Scarlets over a series of fixtures and it’s important to keep that going now as we go into this Welsh derby and I’m just pleased to have a part to play in that. We’ve got lot of respect for our derby opponents and this is going to be a big game and I’m just looking forward to what will no doubt be a good Welsh contest.
Meanwhile, the Scarlets will lose a number of their strike players to Wales for a fortnight ahead of the WRU’s additional friendly international fixture against Australia in early December.
Scarlets call-ups include Matthew Rees, Rhys Priestland, Jon Davies, Scott Williams, George North, Tavis Knoyle and brave, young full-back Liam Williams who will look to make his Wales and Millennium Stadium debut after just ten performances in a Scarlets shirt this season.
Williams, another example of the investment being made in young Welsh talent at the Scarlets, is the latest in a series of new young Welsh internationals making the grade and being picked from their performances and opportunities handed to them in West Wales.
Swansea born and bred Liam Williams, 20, who has played at wing and full-back for the Scarlets 10 times this season, has scored four tries in his first Scarlets senior season with a try in games against Treviso, Leicester Tigers, Ulster and the stunning opening score after just three minutes last weekend against Northampton Saints. He played for Llanelli RFC last season and was in the Wales U20’s squad in 2010/11.
Stephen Jones honours: 6 Caps British and Irish Lions, Record 104 caps Wales, Scarlets appearances 299, Scarlets points 2781 (highest ever point scorer), Heineken Cup appearances 80, European points 860 (2nd highest), Wales points 970 (2nd highest).