- Family affair for Welsh head coach in B&I Cup
- Jones recalls fond memories of time at South Wales club
Photo: RFU Archive
Aberavon’s visit to London Welsh on Saturday in the British & Irish Cup is sure to conjure more than a few nostalgic memories for Exiles head coach Lyn Jones, not least because his father Peter scored 100 tries for the Wizards.
A flanker like son Lyn, Peter Jones played for Aberavon from 1955 to 1965 and was the club’s leading forward try scorer until 2004, when his record was broken by Richard Morris – currently the club’s all-time leading try scorer with 148.
Peter Jones remains, however, one of only 11 players to score a century of tries for the Wizards, and along with Morris the only other forward to do so.
The Jones family Aberavon RFC connection, though, doesn’t end there. Lyn’s brother Ashley, also a flanker, spent three seasons at the club and cousins Brian and Jeff, and David Edwards also played for the Wizards. Lyn, however, would break with family tradition.
"When it was my turn, things had changed – my father had passed away," said the London Welsh head coach, whose family hail from the nearby village of Cwmafan.
"Aberavon offered me an opportunity to play my way into their squad, while Neath invited me to join their squad as the only openside. It showed a great deal of faith in me and I took their invitation."
Jones did, however, wear the black and red on one special occasion, when he turned out for a combined Neath/Aberavon team against a Welsh invitational side in memory former Wales national coach John Bevan, who passed away in 1986 at the age of 38.
Bevan was born in Neath, but played his rugby for Aberavon. He also won four caps for Wales at fly half and toured New Zealand with the British Lions in 1977. Jones never saw his father play for Aberavon, but he can recall many afternoons spent with his brothers watching the Wizards side of the 1970s.
"They were a good side; Clive Shell, Dai Condon, Steve Roper, John Bevan, Ian Hall, Allan Martin, Richie Davies and Ogwen Alexander – all legends from Aberavon," recalled Jones.
It was always a war of attrition – Jones
Jones may have only played for Aberavon the once, but he has fond memories of Boxing Day’s and Easter Monday’s spent lining up against them for Neath.
"It always brought the best out of Aberavon. During my time with Neath I found that the Neath players regarded the Swansea game as the more important – the Aberavon people didn’t. They saw the Neath game as the one to win," said Jones.
"It always had its edge; there’d always be a full house but to be honest it was very rarely a good game of rugby. It was always a war of attrition."
But Jones won’t be the sole custodian of the London Welsh-Aberavon connection on Saturday, as Wizards hooker Marc Breeze made 12 appearances for the Exiles last season, scoring two tries. Breeze incidentally lives 60 yards away from where Jones used to live in the village of Cwmafan.
Breeze and his Aberavon team-mates will arrive at Old Deer Park confident they can continue their winning start to the Welsh Premiership season, which sees the Wizards top the table with nine wins from their opening ten games.
"They’re doing excellent. They’re very well run and Simon King is doing a great job as head coach, but the strength behind the club is [Managing Director] Andrew Vaughan John," said Jones.
"He’s really knitted the club together and given it direction, and a level of pride. He’s done a fantastic job not just to keep Aberavon to the fore, but to get them to the top of the league.
"They are going to be revved up. It’s an important fixture in their calendar as it [the British & Irish Cup] gives Aberavon the opportunity to test themselves against opposition other than in Wales, so they’ll want to acquit themselves well.
"It’s important that we win all our games and we’ll be fielding a side which is going to be extremely competitive and hungry to get into the Championship side, which won last Saturday at Doncaster."