The 29-year-old has built a reputation in recent seasons as one of the strongest scrummaging props in the world of rugby. Jones is the cornerstone of the pack in Wales and was rewarded for his strong form with a place in last summer’s British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa where he started the final test match.
But a slow start to the season due to a combination of injuries and the postponement of regional games prevented Wayne Pivac from starting with Jones against South Africa and Fiji in Wales’ autumn campaign. However, Jones’ strength of character shone through, and he won back the basic jersey for Wales’ win over Australia.
“I think I knew from myself that when I went into the fall I was undercooked, to be honest,” said the 29-year-old. “I came back from the Lions tour with an injured shoulder and an injured back.
“I did my AC joint in the South African A match and have just passed the fitness test to play in the third test after struggling with an infection in the AC. After that I got a nerve in my back during the game, so I had to get out just after the break.
“I was stuck on the dressing room floor for 20 minutes after I got out and could only just get up before the final whistle. That was a tough time. On the way back we were stuck in Jersey and I wasn’t very mobile.
“I was actually injured for my free time after the tour. For six to eight weeks I couldn’t even run, I could hardly do anything.
“I was at home and couldn’t really walk around the house much. My back was stiff and I also had a pinched nerve in my hip.
“I couldn’t do anything for those two months. That was a very frustrating time.
“First I had to get my body in order. In hindsight, I probably backed off a bit.
“But it was nice to get that fall under my belt. Week after week I felt easier as I got fitter.”
Jones’ season has been a roller coaster ride. After regaining his Wales shirt and playing a pivotal role in Wales’ all-important victory over the Wallabies, he hoped for a run of games at regional level.
But the spread of the ommicron strain of Covid-19 meant the Scarlets had to fly back early from South Africa, where they would play two games of the United Rugby Championship, and isolate for 10 days in Belfast. Then came the cancellation of their first two European games against Bristol and Bordeaux respectively, leaving Jones without a game for eight weeks.
“It’s a surreal position to be in real life,” he said. “Obviously, when you’re injured there’s frustration, but you know what you have to do to be able to play again.
“But if you’re fit and able to play and there aren’t any games to play, then it’s definitely different. I can’t really explain what it’s like, training all week and then the game is canceled at the last minute.
“As a player, it’s quite difficult to plan a game, train for a game and then cancel it at the last minute. But that’s the nature of Covid, you have to adapt. I was a little frustrated that I couldn’t play, but it is what it is.”
Jones returned last Saturday for Scarlets’ Heineken Champions Cup defeat in Bordeaux. And the former Llandovery RFC prop is eager to join the Wales squad next Monday. “I’ve been able to train week in, week out for the past few months and that has helped me a lot,” he said.
“I’ve been able to get through some tough sessions and I definitely feel very different now from what I did in the fall. The rest was frustrating, but the body feels good and I am now looking forward to the future.
“Hopefully the games will come thick and fast and I will get enough playing time.”