The 26-year-old Llanelli Scarlets playmaker follows the day afterWales's record tryscorer Gareth Thomas announced he had joined Europeanchampions Toulouse from the Celtic Warriors.
Wales captain Colin Charvis is already in France having joinedSecond Division Tarbes prior to the World Cup last year.
Jones, who is out of contract with the Scarlets at the end of theseason, had been linked with English giants Leicester but opted instead tosign a two-year deal with the French side. "This club has been a very special place for me, and it willbe hard to leave," said Jones, who made more than 200 appearances andscored almost 2,000 points for the team.
"I am excited about moving to France, learning a new languageand experiencing a different culture," said the 40-times cappedJones, who was leading scorer in the Six Nations tournament with 55 points.
Scarlets director of rugby Gareth Jenkins said there was no hardfeelings despite Jones' decision to quit. "Naturally we are disappointed that Stephen will be leavingus, but we respect his decision and wish him every success at Montferrand,"Jenkins said.
"Stephen joined us at 18 years of age and has been a big partof what we have achieved over the last eight years. He is a terrific player, a dedicated professional and hasmany friends at Stradey. We all wish him well."
Jones could still go out on a high note by winning the CelticLeague with
Montferrand, who are in the European Challenge Cup final, madeJones their priority to replace former French international fly-half GeraldMerceron. The Scarlets will replace Jones from within by handing GarethBowen the fly-half role full time.
Jenkins admitted Welsh clubs were unable to compete financiallywith the French sides and with Wales having performed well in both the WorldCup and the Six Nations the players were bound to attract attention. "There are players within my squad who have been offered hugeamounts of money to play in England and France," Jenkins said.
"That's a big concern because we cannot match them. We do nothave the money - it's as simple as that."
New Wales coach Mike Ruddock said that he wanted in an ideal worldall the best players to remain in the country, so they could help strengthenthe domestic game by encouraging sponsors and increased crowds. "My principle is that we want to keep all our best playerswithin the Welsh regions if possible," he said.
"We want to be as as strong as we can so we have more chanceof winning the European Cup with a Welsh region.And we want the fans to see our best players playing inWales and we want those guys to help us achieve greater attendances and bettersponsorship. So it is a blow when we lose players."
AFP - 2004.