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Jones the Latest Star To Quit Wales

Jones the Latest Star To Quit Wales

Within 24 hours of hearing that Gareth Thomas was leaving to join Toulouse, Welsh supporters were given another shock with the news that Stephen Jones has signed for Montferrand.

Welsh club rugby suffered another blow yesterday (Wednesday)
when international fly-half Stephen Jones revealed he had signed for
Championship relegation candidates Montferrand for next season.

The 26-year-old Llanelli Scarlets playmaker follows the day after
record tryscorer Gareth Thomas announced he had joined European
Toulouse from the Celtic Warriors.

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Wales captain Colin Charvis is already in France having joined
Division Tarbes prior to the World Cup last year.

Jones, who is out of contract with the Scarlets at the end of the
had been linked with English giants Leicester but opted instead to
sign a
two-year deal with the French side.
“This club has been a very special place for me, and it will
be hard to
leave,” said Jones, who made more than 200 appearances and
scored almost 2,000
points for the team.

“I am excited about moving to France, learning a new language
experiencing a different culture,” said the 40-times capped
Jones, who was
leading scorer in the Six Nations tournament with 55 points.

Scarlets director of rugby Gareth Jenkins said there was no hard
despite Jones’ decision to quit.
“Naturally we are disappointed that Stephen will be leaving
us, 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 part
of what we
have achieved over the last eight years. He is a terrific player, a dedicated professional and has
many friends at
Stradey. We all wish him well.”

Jones could still go out on a high note by winning the Celtic
League with
Llanelli and is in danger of joining a side that risks being in the
Second Division next season despite having players of the calibre of
internationals Olivier Magne, Aurelien Rougerie and New Zealand-born

Montferrand, who are in the European Challenge Cup final, made
Jones their
priority to replace former French international fly-half Gerald
The Scarlets will replace Jones from within by handing Gareth
fly-half role full time.

Jenkins admitted Welsh clubs were unable to compete financially
with the
French sides and with Wales having performed well in both the World
Cup and
the Six Nations the players were bound to attract attention.
“There are players within my squad who have been offered huge
amounts of
money to play in England and France,” Jenkins said.

“That’s a big concern because we cannot match them. We do not
have the
money – it’s as simple as that.”

New Wales coach Mike Ruddock said that he wanted in an ideal world
all the
best players to remain in the country, so they could help strengthen
domestic game by encouraging sponsors and increased crowds.
“My principle is that we want to keep all our best players
within the Welsh
regions if possible,” he said.

“We want to be as as strong as we can so we have more chance
of winning the
European Cup with a Welsh region.And we want the fans to see our best players playing in
Wales and we want
those guys to help us achieve greater attendances and better
sponsorship. So
it is a blow when we lose players.”

AFP – 2004.