Exiles former head coach takes up director of rugby role at Newport Gwent Dragons
Lyn Jones agonised for weeks over his “heart-breaking” decision to quit London Welsh, but in the end he decided that the club came first.
Despite having a year left on his contract, Jones ended his two-year association with the Exiles last week to return to Wales for personal reasons.
Then, on Monday, the 49-year-old was unveiled as the new director of rugby at Pro 12 outfit Newport Gwent Dragons.
But things could have been very different – Jones insisted the Exiles would still be in the Aviva Premiership had the RFU not deducted five points in the light of the Tyson Keats ineligibility scandal, and had that been the case, Jones could well have honoured his final year.
In the end, the Exiles former head coach stepped down to allow someone, which turned out to be Justin Burnell, to breathe new life into the club.
Jones said: “It was a very difficult decision to leave London Welsh. I took counsel with the right people over a number of weeks to make sure it was correct for me and the club.
“The Richmond area has been fantastic to me, but my family lives in south Wales - that was always a consideration, not a deal-breaker but it was always difficult in many respects.
“Bu the time was right for me and London Welsh to part company. I had given a lot of energy to the club and it had taken a lot out of me.
“The club needed someone new to inspire them and give it a renewed energy. It just needed a change.
“It is heart-breaking to be honest, but it just time to move on.”
He added: “The club is great, and it has a huge amount of potential.
“When you are relegated, you want to fight and take it on again, but as the weeks go by you realise the players could do with someone fresh to take them forward.
“But I am happy in that I gave it my best shot.”
The former Welsh international arrived at Old Deer Park in 2011 from a five-year coaching stint at Ospreys.
He guided the Exiles to the Championship play-offs and a 37-21 win over Cornish Pirates in the final sealed, eventually, promotion to the top flight.
Jones said: “That win over the Pirates was a massive high, but then the court case leading up to the decision to allow us into the Premiership was frenzied, and the club went ballistic with the positive and deserved outcome.
“But all the time I was realistic and sober enough to understand what was in front of us – it was not so much the enormity of the teams and settled squads we were taking on, it was that we had eight weeks to turn ourselves from a Championship club into a Premiership club.
“Something which takes several years, we had to do in eight weeks. That was a huge challenge.”
Nail in the coffin: The Tyson Keats, left, ineligibility saga cost London Welsh their Aviva Premiership status, says Jones Picture: Martin John
If promotion was ultimately decided in the appeal courts, then, according to Jones, so was relegation.
“The deduction of the five points was huge, and I think it had a bigger affect on the other teams around us at the time.
“We went from 10th to 12th in the table in a minute. It gave the other teams a boost, and noticeably Irish and Sale really stepped up their game after that.
“It took the wind out of our sails and we could quite recover enough, it is all history now.”
He added: “If we had not been deducted those points I have no doubt that we would still be in the Premiership. It was a tough time.”
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