The Scarlets and Wales’ popular and widely respected back row forward, Dafydd Jones has officially announced that he will no longer play rugby after failing to recover fully from a serious shoulder injury.
Jones sustained the A/C joint shoulder injury playing for Wales against New Zealand in November 2009, undergoing an operation for shoulder reconstruction surgery two days following the injury. However, six months later as the injury was still causing issues for Jones, on medical advice he had a second shoulder operation (June 2010) to repair significant nerve damage and to attempt to regain more power back in his left shoulder.
The decision to retire was finally made before Christmas after Jones consulted once again with specialists. The decision, says Jones has been “a very difficult one” after 13 successful years with the Scarlets. His last game in a Scarlets shirt was on 23rd October 2009 against the Newport Gwent Dragons.
Jones will continue his association with the Scarlets for the next six months by undertaking various roles within the rugby region to develop his non-rugby skills and experience. These roles will include assisting with the Academy, working within the community department to help inspire young players of the future and sponsor relationship duties.
Dafydd Jones said: “This has been a really tough time for me and my family and it’s a very hard decision to retire from rugby which has been the sport and career I’ve known and loved since I was a teenager. All my efforts have gone into playing rugby for the Scarlets and for Wales and I am very proud of and enjoyed everything I have done.
“It has taken a while to sink in that I’m not actually going to be playing any more, but the decision was really made for me as the medics said there was no way back from the damage caused by the injury.
“The good thing is I have great memories of playing – some great contests and victories to look back on with real enjoyment, I’m lucky that I’ve played alongside, against and worked with some world-class rugby greats.
“I’ve had great opportunities as a player – a World Cup in 2003, being part of the Wales squad for the 2005 Grand Slam and there’s the 2004 international against the All Blacks and being up against Richie McCaw – I won’t forget that contest!
“There’s been lots of great Scarlets highlights mainly the European ones like beating Northampton at Franklin Gardens, the Toulouse back-to-back wins home and away and I was part of two Celtic league wins for the Scarlets as well.”
“I’d really like to thank everyone that’s supported me over the past decade and a half and I appreciate all the chances and experiences I’ve had. I haven’t decided fully what I want to do next, but I’m really grateful to the Scarlets, who are giving me the next six months to get experience of working within the region to help me identify where my future path might be and what’s best for my and family – whether inside or outside rugby.”
The talented, powerful and committed Scarlet has worn Llanelli and Scarlets colours throughout his playing career and featured more than 200 times. A big man at 6’ 3”, with great speed and dynamism, Jones has been another successful product of the Scarlets youth development system.
Born and bred near Aberaeron, Gareth Jenkins thought so much of his potential when he was playing for Llanelli Youth in the 1996/7 season that he brought him into the senior side. He has been a member of the squad ever since.
He has played 201 games for Llanelli and the Scarlets, scoring 24 tries, winning 115 matches and 2 drawn. He played his first game for the Scarlets on St Valentine’s Day in 1997 against Leeds.
He achieved 42 caps for Wales mainly at flanker but he has covered all three back row positions for club and country. His first cap for Wales was against Fiji on 9th November, 2002. He became the 165th Scarlet to pull on the Wales jersey in November 2002 against Fiji in the autumn international series.
His last Wales cap was against New Zealand on 7th November, 2009. He has scored two tries for Wales –against Italy and Romania. He has played in 47 Heineken European Cup games, in 84 Celtic League games and during his international career Dafydd has played against 15 countries. He captained the Scarlets against Exeter Chiefs, away, at the start of the 2007/8 season.
Huw Evans, Chairman of the Scarlets has paid tribute to ‘an outstanding Scarlet’. He said: “Whilst the whole rugby world, and particularly here in this region, will be saddened by today’s announcement of Dafydd’s premature retirement, we will all reflect with warmth and pride on his career.
“Dafydd Jones is very simply “outstanding”; as a man, a rugby player, a Scarlet and every bit as importantly as a role model to hopeful young players.
“This will be a difficult day for Daf as he announces his retirement from the game he loves and we hope he will take strength from the massive regard, admiration and respect that he commands from all players, coaches and supporters involved in his career."
Scarlets Head Coach Nigel Davies said: “Daf has been a trusted, committed and respected senior member of this Scarlets squad and a loyal servant to our team for over a decade. All his colleagues here are really disappointed to see such a great player and popular teammate having to end his career early.
“He was a formidable player to have in your squad, a guy you can rely on – with huge guts and spirit and a totally committed player on the field. He’s been a firm favourite amongst players and supporters alike for his brave, honest and down-to-earth attitude.
“He’s been a committed Scarlet with a real belief in Scarlets rugby and our values. He’s rightly a local hero in West Wales and has undoubtedly inspired many younger rugby players get involved in the game.
“We’re pleased that he will be staying on with us until the end of the season while he decides where he wants to take his future and whether it’s going to be in rugby or not, he will have the full support of our region from Scarlets colleagues and supporters alike.
“This region owes a great deal to its committed senior players like Daf and we at the Scarlets want to use the avenues available to us to support players coming out of the game and where we can help them define for themselves which career direction they wish to take.”
Scarlets supporters will have the opportunity to applaud a great Scarlet and show their appreciation and respect for Dafydd Jones at the Scarlets next home game – the big European fixture as the Scarlets take on the Leicester Tigers in the Heineken Cup on Saturday January 15th 5.45pm kick-off.
Dafydd Jones was handed the honour of a testimonial year by the Scarlets for 2010/2011. His next event will be on 16th February 2011 at the Stradey Park Hotel. For more information on how to support his testimonial year visit www.dafyddjonestestimonial.co.uk.