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My Life in Rugby: Stephen Jones – former Wales and Lions fly-half

Stephen JonesThe 2009 Lions tour was the most intensive period of my career. Some of the games were brutal and that second Test, when we lost the match and the series in Pretoria to the last kick of the game, was like no other game that I have experienced.

We had five players in hospital afterwards and I have never seen that before. It was crazy. But it was a fantastic tour, so different than four years before in New Zealand.

It was disappointing to lose two Tests, but we finished on a high with that Test victory. That win at Ellis Park was the first major triumph in the Southern Hemisphere for many players against one of the Tri-Nations giants.

I think that gave Wales a confidence going to the 2011 World Cup in comparison to the difficult World Cup campaigns I’d encountered before.

But 2011 was both good and bad for me as I’d torn my calf in the months before the tournament. I got back healthy for the last warm-up match and tore it again, so I went out to New Zealand injured.

It was tough to lose to France in the semi-final because we had the momentum behind us and we had great belief.

We lost Sam Warburton early on which was disappointing, but we still nearly won the game. We then lost by three points to Australia in the bronze medal match which was equally tough.

But I really enjoyed being involved in such a successful Welsh side. Before the 2003 World Cup we had some tough batterings, but to have come out of that and gathered momentum over the next few years and to win the Grand Slams in 2005 and 2008 was fantastic.

I got the chance to captain my country and feel honoured to have pulled on the Wales shirt more than 100 times – I have some incredible memories and experiences.

It all started for me when I signed a three-year professional deal at Llanelli when I was 18 – a dream come true.

I had some great times there and it was a massive decision for me to leave Llanelli in 2004 but I was given the chance to sign for Clermont and I saw it as a massive opportunity.

In my first game I got knocked out for the first time in my career by the Montpellier scrum-half with a bit of a cheap shot.

I had two good years at Clermont and got called up for the Lions tour in 2005, so I was sad to leave France in 2006.

I was looking to improve my future with Wales by returning – you’re looked after a lot better if you play in Wales because you get time off before international fixtures.

I went back to the Scarlets and even though we were had some tough times financially and lost a lot of good players we brought some fine youngsters through who’ve gone on to great things, like Ken Owens, Jonathan Davies and Rhys Priestland.

But in 2012, at that stage of my career, I thought it was right to take on a new challenge with Wasps.

Originally I was meant to play this year, but I suffered a back injury early last season. I managed to get through that and then had to call it a day.

I was fortunate enough to go into coaching at Wasps which was wonderful for me – it’s a great culture and everyone is aware of the club’s history.

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