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Sam Jones
Discussion started by ukms , 14 January, 2020 00:31
Sam Jones
ukms 14 January, 2020 00:31
Interesting article about Sam Jones.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 14/01/2020 00:32 by ukms.

Re: Sam Jones
kentwasp1 14 January, 2020 13:19
Can't read it as subscription needed - paste?

Really really miss that man in our set up but seems he is making good progress on civvy street and so pleased for him

Re: Sam Jones
Heathen 14 January, 2020 13:44
Sam Jones: the horror judo injury that ended in paradise
Owen Slot, Chief Rugby Correspondent

January 13 2020, 5:00pm, The Times

We write a load of stories, these days, about injury and mental welfare in rugby and this is one of the very worst. But if you want to hear any of it, you have to eat first.

My recommendation is to start with the mutton shoulder rolls. Don’t miss the fried aubergine and jaggery moju. The lamb chops are like nothing you will have had before. And finish off with the lime and coconut sorbet for dessert.

Then he’ll talk to you. If only every rugby interview could start like this.

We are in Paradise, the new Sri Lankan restaurant that opened in Rupert Street, Soho in November. Standing to greet you is Sam Jones, the assistant manager, so proud of his restaurant, and rightly so. He is 28; you wouldn’t know that just over three years ago he was on the verge of an England career and he is the last person to tell you.

I have been trying to persuade him to talk about it for nearly two years. Barely got an answer. In short, whatever cocktail of frustration, anger, sadness, darkness was brewing in his head, he didn’t particularly want to share it publicly. He didn’t want to go away from the game a national hard luck story. He didn’t want to go at all, but if he had to, he was just going to slip away.

Thus the shortest part of our conversation. Can you recall that day in Brighton? “Yes.” Long pause.

That day was October 3, 2016. Jones was 24. He had been spotted by Eddie Jones as a rising star of Wasps’s — and maybe England’s — back row. So this was his first call-up; Jones played for Wasps on October 2, then drove down to Brighton to join the England camp that evening.

The next day, there were judo drills. England believed that judo training would improve the grappling skills that the players needed in contact. Jones was paired up with Maro Itoje. The injury he sustained included a fractured fibula, disrupted ligaments around the ankle, a damaged ankle cartilage and ruptured medial ligament.

The initial prognosis was for four-to-six months rehabilitation but he did 17. “Ask anyone who’s injured long-term,” he says. “It is tough.”

Every day, you are with the team but not with them. They train, you go to rehab. He had a three-week period where he was able to dip in and out of proper training, but the next day he couldn’t do anything because the inflammation and pain cycle had resumed. “Very dark,” he says. “It is a daily battle to get fired up for it.”

Eventually, he was told: sorry, it’s not going to happen. “The finality was something of a relief,” he says. “To be told definitively, ‘This isn’t going to get any better’, actually helped. Park it, move on. Because the ‘will it, won’t it’ phase was tough.”

And that was that. It may have been more, though. The end of Jones’s career came in highly irregular circumstances. Was it right to be doing judo when post-game days are usually recovery days? Was he given sufficient briefing on the judo? Did England respond well enough immediately post-injury? These were all questions that were being asked. Jones became a bit of a cause: the wronged rugby player. But he never ever wanted that. It was hard enough that he wasn’t a rugby player at all.

Not being a rugby player was mentally challenging. “It was the sense of purpose that I had as a rugby player,” he says. “You identify yourself and other people identify you as a rugby player. It’s very easy. When that is no longer the case, you are suddenly an ex-player and you don’t want to be known for ever as someone who once played rugby.”

But who was he? This is what he wanted to establish without anyone shouting about what might have been in an England shirt or, indeed, what might have been in court.

Jones knew he loved food. During a previous injury, he had written a food blog. That was fun. He then got a few work experience shifts in London kitchens where people hadn’t heard of Wasps, let alone Sam Jones. He liked that too. “It was refreshing,” he says, “to go into an environment where rugby doesn’t count for anything and you must prove yourself”.

He tried a few things: catering companies, food PR. Then he and some mates did some pop-up restaurant nights. “We were winging it big time,” he says. And through that, he met Dom Fernando, a man with an idea for a restaurant based on the food of his family heritage.

That is what got Jones to the front of house at Paradise. He and Fernando spent six days in Sri Lanka learning about the food and the kind of restaurant he wanted to run; every member of staff has been there. Jones has been central to it all: the design, the menu, the staff.

You never replace the buzz of playing, being a team, the boys. “Everyone would say that,” he says. Yet he sees real parallels in his new life. He likes the team aspect: “It relies on everyone doing their job at the right time together, you are all in it together.” He likes the build-up to an evening: “Effectively you train. Before opening you walk through service, like you are on a team run.”

He likes the whole performance, the instant feedback, the reviews on TripAdvisor: “It’s like getting your @#$%& handed to you in training after you’ve had a bad performance. Same here, we are pretty ruthless at times.”

As you may tell, this is what he loves talking about — which isn’t too unusual. He likes to talk about what is going right rather than what went wrong. He is also evangelical about what other rugby players need to know: that retirement is a huge mental test, that the transition to a new life can take you through dark times. Preposterously, given his own experience, he says he counts himself “lucky” — because he did have another interest. What if you don’t?

Two years ago, when Jones’s retirement was becoming reality, we never thought we would fill a column on him here as a good news story. He doesn’t play rugby any more, he never got an England cap, his ankle isn’t great. Yet he keeps his scars hidden and he refuses to be bitter. “There is nothing really to gain,” he says, “from reminiscing and thinking: what if?” And he now loves what he does.

Some of his old Wasps team-mates have come in to eat. Elliot Daly has been in. There is a booking pending for a Harlequins table.

This is the first rugby injury story that ends in Paradise.

Re: Sam Jones
kentwasp1 14 January, 2020 17:14
Thanks Heathen

Re: Sam Jones
WaspieMatt 14 January, 2020 18:29
Fantastic for Sam. Hope he makes a real go of it.
I for one will pop along for some Sri Lankan food one evening after work.

Re: Sam Jones
Warleywasp 14 January, 2020 20:26
I'm planning a visit next time" I'm in the smoke"

Re: Sam Jones
Buzzboy 14 January, 2020 20:47
Some good news from him at last. Sounds like it might be pricey?! Discount forWasps?! Good luck Sam.

Re: Sam Jones
WaspieMatt 14 January, 2020 21:16
Some good news from him at last. Sounds like it might be pricey?! Discount forWasps?! Good luck Sam.

Well I’ve just had a look at the prices on the menu and it looks very reasonably priced.

Re: Sam Jones
DuncanS 15 January, 2020 07:16
The Drunken Wasps used to regularly organise Curry evenings at a restaurant in Ealing (and once or twice in Wembley) back in the day. Maybe this tradition could be revived and moved to Paradise for London-based fans?

Re: Sam Jones
Petergwilson 15 January, 2020 13:52
That's very near where I work. Must give it a go.

Re: Sam Jones
Buzzboy 15 January, 2020 21:54
I’m not London based anymore, but would be up for a trip to the smoke for a DW meal. Menu looks great.
When suits? End of season?

Re: Sam Jones
kentwasp1 17 January, 2020 07:44
I'd be up for that. I'm going to the Tigers match next month at Welford Road and will pass by this on the way back south through London. 9pm table for DW?
Getting some great reviews

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