June International Tours

James Jones gets his first Test

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On Saturday James Laurence Jones of Swansea will be refereeing his very first Test – a match between Romania and Czech Republic in Ricany. Of course, it’s exciting for the 28-year-old who has been refereeing for 15 years.

A Mid Walian, he talks about his entry into refereeing as a young boy at Penyrheol Comprehensive School in Swansea after which he went on to Gorseinon College. Swansea – the Bay, the Mumbles, the Gower Peninsula, St Helen’s Ground, the All Whites – easy to feel the rugby spirit there.

The spirit was willing, but the performance was not so great, as he explains: “I was the best-ever super sub in each team I was a member! I had the occasional game at flank/wing and scrumhalf but turned my hand to refereeing at a very young age (13) as I was never the biggest or hardest of players. I would go on the field in a pair of white shorts and come off the field in the cleanest kit as I was afraid to tackle! My Dad, Keith, was a referee to a fairly high standard and so I followed in his footsteps.

“I had a lot of jokes from my friends on first taking up refereeing but I would never have had the opportunities I have had as a referee had I continued to play or warm the bench! I certainly wouldn’t change the road I have taken.

“I started refereeing and working with Loughor and Dunvant Rugby clubs who took me under their wing and had me refereeing training sessions etc aiding my development.

“Having had a lot of support and coaching on the referee front from Dad (and nutrition advice from Mam!) I progressed onto the Welsh Rugby Union senior list of referees at the age of 17 in 1996-97. Since then I have received a lot of help from other sources such as Clive Norling, Rob Yeman (current manager of match officials in Wales) and Ken Rowlands to name but a few. Derek Bevan has also put a lot of work and coaching into me as a young referee pointing me in the right direction, making sure I am not becoming a robot of any sorts but being an individual and enjoying each game as it comes.

“In addition to the above one of our full time referees, Hugh Watkin, has an active role as mentor. I regularly speak to him for advice and we meet up to review DVDs of games.

“My wife Rhian has probably the most important role in my career development as she ensures my kit is in tip top clean condition and is very supportive looking after our son when I am away on long trips. One of the few down sides to refereeing at a high level unfortunately is the amount of time away from the family.”

Rhian gave birth to their first son in January 2006 and named him Osian John Jones. They are Welsh all right, though James is only now learning Welsh – along with a bit of French. And he has a “proper” job. An honours graduate in law from the University of Glamorgan he is currently a manager in the legal department of Diamond Car Insurance. He says: “They are extremely supportive of my travel commitments.”

Progress? “I have gradually progressed through the domestic national leagues earning a tough apprenticeship as a young referee coming across some very difficult local derby games and some very hard players!

“In 2004 I officiated my first Under-18 international between England and Scotland and have since refereed several Under-19 internationals (including matches at the IRB Under-19 World Championships in 2005 in Durban) and Under-21 internationals at Six Nations level, including England vs France this year.

“I am currently on the IRB World Sevens series as a referee, having taken over from Nigel Owens in 2005, and referee regular Magners League games along with European Challenge Cup matches.

“Undoubtedly the Sevens series has aided my development in a huge way as I have travelled as far afield as Hong Kong and officiated in front of 30-40 thousand fans, coming across several players who have gone on to reach full Test match level. The pace of the game is very int

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