LEE Jones has put his hand up for a return from injury in the fixture that, arguably, set him on the road to international rugby honours when Edinburgh launch their Rabo Direct Pro 12 campaign against Munster at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Going into the encounter a year ago, Jones had still to prove his credentials with only 11 league starts to his name.
But the winger played a full part in a 29-14 victory over the Munstermen and in demonstrating he could more than hold his own at top level went on to notch four tries in his next six games.
Like never before Jones was on the radar of national coach Andy Robinson and he was to become a Six Nations ever-present, with a try against France on his CV, until injury struck on the fourth leg causing him to miss the tournament finale due to concussion.
That blow ocurred in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium, against Ireland, and, ironically, it was on his return to the ground with Edinburgh for a Heineken European Cup semi-final against Ulster that his season ended prematurely with ten minutes of the evenly-balanced tie remaining.
“I dived to tap tackle Craig Gilroy as he went on the outside break and just landed awkwardly on my shoulder.
“It was pretty painful straightaway and I knew I had done something serious despite the fact I’d never broken any bone in my body previously,” said Jones.
In fact, things could have been worse, albeit the fractured scapula cost him a place on Scotland’s successful Southern Hemisphere tour where he would have been odds-on to add to four caps gained so far. “What transpired was a clean fracture meaning my shoulder could be left to heal without surgery,” said Jones, adding: “Of course, it was disappointing to miss the tour but what if the injury had ocurred in the middle of the season rather than the end?
“That’s the only way I can look at things as well as the fact that I’ve had a good rest and feel really refreshed.
“I’m fully fit and good to go even if it has been a long pre-season having been around the training pitches from day one.”
Ask Jones if he’d have accepted his rugby fortune at the start of 2011-12 despite the injury hiccups and the answer is an emphatic “yes”.
“With hindsight the rest has probably done me a lot of good and there was so much to look back on with some satisfaction.
“Highlight was a debut against England but getting tries to help Edinburgh into the European semi-final was also enjoyable.”
In fact, Jones crossed in the opening away win at London Irish followed by the trip to Cardiff while his strike against London Irish at home had added significance in clinching the bonus point with which Edinburgh topped the group.
“Now it is about looking ahead and whereas I started last season looking to try and get a place in Edinburgh’s team I now aim to keep that place in the face of some pretty serious competition across the board,” said Jones, adding: “For example, Tim Visser has returned from the Scotland tour as an internationalist – I was really chuffed to see the team claim three wins out of three against Australia, Fiji and Samoa because I know how tough it is to succeed at that level – and Tom Brown has also been capped in the back three.
“The rest might have been forced upon me but it doesn’t make me any less determined to give things a good go and so far as the league is concerned Munster are such a quality side that to get them first up provides an opportunity to put down a marker. That is especially the case as we have them in our Heineken Cup pool and of all the teams in the league it is the Irish contingent we probably have to watch out for most.
“At any time Munster would represent a scalp but on this occasion it is even more the case and I aim determined to show the consistency needed to make sure I play a full part in the season ahead and really merit my Edinburgh place which is the focus at the moment.”
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Thursday 20 June 2013
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