With the end of the Nigel Davies era for the Scarlets, backs coach Mark Jones insists success, not just performance, is the only way the club can move forward.
Jones has put a bulls-eye on the back of defending Heineken Cup champions, and group stage opponents, Leinster – challenging his young playing group to deliver on their potential, and bring the trophy to west Wales.
The departure of Davies and Steven Jones – the club’s all-time leading points scorer – has handed over the keys to the young stars at Parc y Scarlets, both on the field and off it.
Jones, alongside new head coach Simon Easterby, played and coached under Davies and was part of the teams that finished just one win short of the RaboDirect Pro12 semi-finals for two years running.
And while the emergence and development of Wales’ breakthrough stars George North, Rhys Priestland, Scott Williams may have Davies’ fingerprints on them – it is Jones and Easterby who are tasked with taking the next step, and putting trophies in those players’ hands.
“You’ve got to beat top sides to win trophies and we’re going into the Heineken Cup to win it,” said Jones.
“It’s a tough group – one of the toughest – and going to Leinster, and down to Clermont, it will give us a real test of where we are.
“But this squad’s through the development stage now and we’re focussed on winning, and these players are ready to win.
“Nigel did a great deal for the club, not just developing players, but developing me and Simon as coaches and Steve was a huge character within the squad.
“It’s not a case of Rhys [Preistland] stepping up and being Steve, we’ll share some responsibility and let Rhys play.”
Increasingly faced with the mixed blessing of a squad loaded with international players, Jones is looking forward to working with his back-line without the distraction of a mid-season World Cup duty.
Of the players who made their names over in New Zealand, North has gone on to become one of the game’s most lethal finishers while Priestland’s game has become subject to ever more scrutiny.
Jones is backing his 25-year-old fly-half to respond to those critics who – following an underwhelming test series in Australia – were calling for his replacement, and to do so wearing a Scarlets jersey.
“Rhys had a fantastic start – he was outstanding in the World Cup and the 6 Nations, what people don’t realise he picked up and injury and finished the season never playing at 100 per cent,” said Jones.
“He’s over this now and he’ll come back strong.
“For me it’s a huge bonus having the players available for the whole season
“When they go away with the Wales squad, it’s good for them, but they run different lines, use different calls.
“We’ve got a lot of X-factor players – what we’re looking to develop is getting those players into one-on-one situations and letting them play.”