Sam Jones was faced with a tough decision a couple of years ago. Excelling both academically and in rugby, he had to decide on whether to take the academic or sporting path. ‘I was always very keen on going to university and gaining a degree. I was leaning towards the conventional route and just doing university’. However a professional contract from London Wasps was ‘too good an opportunity to miss’, and as such Jones finds himself juggling a full-time degree in English at King’s College London with trying to establish himself in the sport. This isn’t indicative of indecisiveness, but an astute awareness of the reality of sport, ‘the physical nature’ of which ‘means that careers are short and come your mid-thirties you find yourself having to look at other options’.
Balancing Tennyson with tries gives Jones a security net,but presents substantial problems. ‘The main challenge is physically making the teaching hours’; Jones’ training and playing schedule means that he can only make certain classes, and for those which he can make, he often does so underprepared from not being able to attend the corresponding lecture. But he relishes the challenge, and the variety it brings to his life, often finding it ‘refreshing to balance the physical exertion with some mental stimulation’. That said he’s often feels drained by his demanding timetable. He tells me that ‘when I’m tired after long training days it can be difficult to find the motivation to study’, and just the other day tweeted about his ‘Day spent in the library #dull’!
A prodigious talent who shone at youth level for his country, reaching the final of the 2011 Junior World Cup as one of the stars on the tournament, has Sam fallen into the trap of believing his own hype? ‘Not at all. I have lots to work on and many areas of my game still need development’. He’s also modest about his successes thus far; ‘Last year was very much a breakthrough year for me but it came as a surprise and through a bit of luck due to a large amount of injuries in my position’. However surprised he was the youngster was superb across the back-row, with a Man of the Match performance at number 8 in a key win over London Irish a high point. Whilst those performances helped him earn the club’s Young Player of the Year award, new signings mean that this season he’s found himself on the fringes of the side again. But the experiences of last season have left him hungry to get back into the side; ‘I experienced what the sport at the top level is all about, now it’s just about acclimatising myself to that by getting more and more game time’.
With that in mind, what does the future hold for Jones? His ultimate goal is to represent the full national side, but he concedes he’s ‘still quite a way’ from that, and in order to get there he says he’ll ‘need to nail down a starting position for Wasps and play consistently well week in, week out’. Jones’ perspective is that of seeing the long game. With his club, he just wants to ‘stay well clear’ of the relegation battle, and whilst he has half an eye on earning a Heineken Cup spot, ‘being in contention for silverware in the years to come is the aim’. On a personal level if just about getting ‘as much game time as possible and hopefully earning a starting journey’. For someone who has achieved so much already, Jones displays commendable and refreshing levels of modesty. With feet firmly on the ground, and a commitment to hard work, this talented youngster seems well set to realise his potential both on the field and in the exam hall.
PHOTO/ PETER J DEAN