Lions Legend: Robert Jones

Robert Jones toured twice with the Lions and will forever be remembered as the man who ignited the flames at the Battle of Ballymore. [more]

Lions Legend: Robert Jones

Robert Jones toured twice with the Lions and will forever be remembered as the man who ignited the flames at the Battle of Ballymore.

Having lost the opening Test on the tour of Australia in 1989, the Lions knew they would have to outmuscle the Wallabies if they were to keep the series alive ahead of the third and final encounter.

Finlay Calder's men did just that, with the diminutive Jones one of the leading figures in the Lions' successful attempts to reassert their authority over the soon-to-be World Champions.

The Welsh scrum-half, who played in all three Tests against Australia, stood on Nick Farr-Jones' foot at the very first scrum, sparking a large-scale punch up which seemed to distract the home side far more than it did the Lions. The Lions went on to win both the second and third internationals to claim their first series triumph since 1974.

After being the undisputed number one scrum-half in 1989, Jones toured with the Lions again four years later. This time, the Trebanos-born former Swansea schoolboy had to be content with a place in the mid-week side after England's Dewi Morris claimed the starting Test berth.

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Jones became the second Welsh scrum-half to win 50 caps for his country, following in the footsteps of Lions legend Gareth Edwards in December 1995.

He made more than 280 appearances for Swansea during two spells at the club between 1983 and 2002, scoring 50 tries and captaining the All Whites in 1989/90 and 1990/91.

As well as playing for Swansea, Jones also wore the colours of Cardiff and Bristol (for whom he was skipper in the 1997/98 season) and South Africa's Western Province.

Since his retirement, Jones has enjoyed roles in both coaching and the media.

Robert Jones factfile

Date of birth: November 10 1965
Clubs: Swansea, Western Province, Bristol, Cardiff
International caps: Wales 54
Height: 5ft 8in (1.73m)
Weight: 11 stone 10lbs (74kg)

Jones' Lions lowdown

Lions debut: Versus Western Australia, June 10, 1989
Lions Tests: 3 (All three Tests in 1989)
Lions non-Test appearances: 10
Total Lions appearances: 13 (seven in 1989 and six in 1993)
Lions points: 10* (two tries) *under the current scoring system of five points for a try
Final Lions appearance: Versus Waikato, Hamilton, June 29, 1993


Robert Jones played all three Tests against Australia in 1989

On achieving a life-long goal

"To play for the Lions had always been one of my ambitions. It is the next thing you hope for after playing for your country, proving yourself to be one of the best in your position in Britain and Ireland.

"To be recognised in that way was a wonderful feeling. It made me a member of the best team I ever played in, and led to the single incident which is most remembered from my 16-and-a-half years in senior rugby."

On an extended Welsh family

"Wherever you go on a Lions tour, you can be sure you will be greeted at the airport by people from the local Welsh society, probably with a choir and one of the older members dressed in Welsh national costume.

"People would ring you at the hotel wanting to know if you were related to them – there are a lot of Joneses in Australia as well – or if you knew relatives of theirs in Wales.

"I was always amazed that people could move thousands of miles, make a new life for themselves in a different country and still feel more Welsh than ever."

On a special feeling in 1989

"Everything felt right from the moment we arrived at our hotel that May. That sense of four national groups, men who were usually opponents on the field of play, coming together with a single purpose added to the feeling of excitement.

"I have never felt so relaxed. For nine weeks we were away from the pressures of playing in Wales and from the need to earn a living. We were, in effect, full-time professionals.

"I realised the quality of the players we had in the squad and I remember thinking, 'I can't wait to play with this team. They are going to be so good to play with.'"


Robert Jones looks for his options against the Wallabies

On 'that' incident with Nick-Farr Jones

"What happened with Nick Farr-Jones in the first few minutes of the second Test is something I am still asked about.

"I don't think I have ever been so wound up before a match, and that was before Finlay Calder's special line in pre-match oratory which was likely to have you bursting with adrenalin for the first few minutes. I was aching to get grips physically with Farr-Jones.

"An opportunity came at the first scrum. There was nothing premeditated in the sense that I had decided exactly what to do beforehand, but I had gone out with the intention of doing something to unsettle him. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to stand on his foot at the first scrum and push down.

"He came back at me, and within seconds there was a pretty lively punch up going on. Before the match, Finlay had emphasised that we were not to take a backward step, that we would tackle hard, put on physical pressure up front, ruck hard and drive the line-out. I knew that if there was any trouble, four men would come instantly to my assistance: Mike Teague, the Gloucester builder, and the three policeman, Paul Ackford, Wade Dooley and Dean Richards. And that is exactly what happened.


Robert Jones and Nick Farr-Jones were at the heart of a tremendous battle

"This punch up set the tone for the match. Nick was very upset by the incident and kept chatting to the referee. The Australians in general were upset about our physical approach and it has to be said that things got quite brutal at times.

"Today, I would probably have been dismissed and suspended for six to 12 weeks for what I did, but not in 1989. I can't say that I regret it, though. It probably was the turning point of the match and the series. Nick Farr-Jones was distracted from his normal game and was not nearly as effective as he had been the week before. We won that game 19-12 and established something of a physical and psychological edge over the Aussies."

On what makes the Lions so important

"There is a magic about the Lions that nothing else quite matches. For the individual, a Lions tour offers one of the greatest prizes in the game: the chance to step up from being the best in your country to being the best in Britain and Ireland, and to play with others who are judged to be in the same category in their positions. It is a real experience to be surrounded by players who by definition are of higher quality than the average international player. It cannot fail to make you a better player.

"To lose the Lions as an experience, as the highest aspiration for British and Irish rugby players, would be a disaster. I am delighted that they have survived into the professional era when many critics were predicting their demise. They thought the Lions were a thing of the past but they couldn't have been more wrong.

"To me, the Lions will always be about the future, the biggest thing in our game and the ultimate target for our best young players."

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