The South African-born London Welsh and Wales lock Ian Conin Jones has died at the age of 75. He won three Blues for Oxford University against Cambridge, twice faced the All Blacks and won one cap for Wales.
Jones qualified for Wales via his grandparents and was parachuted into the Welsh team to face Ireland in Dublin on 9 March, 1968. Wales had started their Five Nations campaign with an 11-11 draw against England at Twickenham and the boilerhouse shift on that day went to the Aberavon locks, Max Wiltshire and Billy Mainwaring.
Jones, then just approaching his 28th birthday, had been given a place in the Possibles second row at the final Welsh Trial in Cardiff on 6 January, 1968, as a late replacement for Delme Thomas. He packed down with Cardiff’s Lyn Baxter and the Possibles upset the odds to win 12-0.
Thomas was called into the side for the 5-0 win over Scotland in Cardiff two weeks after Twickenham, partnering Wiltshire, but Jones got his chance as the ‘Big Five’ board of Welsh selectors looked for a more commanding line-out presence against the Irish.
But as quickly as Jones found himself on the international stage, the 46th player to be capped directly from London Welsh, he was thrust back into the wilderness. Wales were beaten 9-6 by a last gasp try from Mick Doyle and the selectors decided to restore Wiltshire for the final game of the championship against France at the Arms Park.
To illustrate how hit and miss the selection process was at the time, Jones was one of five players brought into the side to go to Ireland for the third game of the championship. Out went Keith Jarrett, Stuart Watkins and Gerald Davies in the back line and back came John Dawes to lead the side from the centre.
Jones was one of two new caps in the Dublin-bound team, along with Cardiff wing Maurice Richards, and was one of three London Welsh players in the side with Dawes and John Taylor. Only Taylor of that trio survived to face the French!
In Dublin, Wales had to withstand an Irish onslaught at the start and were soon 6-0 behind. They hauled themselves back into the game with a Doug Rees penalty to make it 6-3 at the break and then had the breeze at their backs.
With 10 minutes played in the second half, Thomas won a line-out and Gareth Edwards dropped for goal from long range. Everyone in the ground, except the English referee Mike Titcombe, thought the kick had gone wide of the posts, but the points were awarded.
Three minutes of mayhem ensued, with spectators rushing onto the field, bottles being thrown and for the remaining 38 minutes Titcombe was loudly hooted. It seemed as though the game was going to end at 6-6, but Mike Doyle scored a try in the dying seconds to grab a 9-6 win – and possibly save Titcombe from a public lynching.
Jones was born in Vryburg but grew up in Malmesbury. He attended South African College School followed by Stellenbosch University, before moving to England. He was a Rhodes Scholar, attending Queens College, Oxford and played for the Dark Blues from 1962 to 1964.
He helped Oxford University beat the touring Canadians 56-0 in October, 1962 and won his first Blue a few weeks later in a 14-0 defeat to Cambridge. The Oxford side had lost only once in their build up to the Varsity Match, beating Cardiff, Leicester, Blackheath, Harlequins and London Scottish along the way, but were well beaten at Twickenham.
Packing down with Jones in the second row was future Scotland and British & Irish Lions lock Peter Stagg and against them was Welsh international Brian Thomas. In the 1963/64 season, Jones had the distinction of playing for Oxford against the All Blacks in the opening game of their tour.
This time he found himself opposing the great Colin Meads in a game won 19-3 by the tourists. Oxford won 10 of their 13 games in the build-up to the Varsity Match, but once again Cambridge proved too strong on the day, winning 19-11 to make it four in a row.
He finally tasted success at the third time of asking in the Varsity Match, helping Oxford to snatch a 19-9 victory. He met the All Blacks again in 1967 when East Wales helped them to a 3-3 draw at the Arms Park – the only one of the 17 games on tour that didn’t go the All Black’s way
A strapping 6’4″ second row, Jones made his first team debut for London Welsh on 23 September, 1964 against the Metropolitan Police. He helped the club turn into the most successful in the UK and had to battle with Wales and British & Irish Lions locks Geoff Evans and Mike Roberts, another Oxford blue, for a place in the second row.
At their peak, the Exiles boasted seven 1971 Lions – JPR Williams, Gerald Davies, John Dawes, Roberts, Evans, Mervyn Davies and John Taylor – and other Welsh caps in Roger Michaelson, Brian Rees, Tony Gray, Jeff Young, Keith Hughes, Jim Shanklin, Billy Raybould and Billy Hullin.
Jones went on to make an impressive 135 appearances for the Exiles, scoring 12 tries over nine seasons, and was a good enough athlete and ball player to feature in two Middlesex Sevens winning teams in 1971 and 1972. During his time at the club London Welsh also won two Sunday Telegraph Pennants as the champion club in England and Wales (1967/68 and 1970/71), four as English champions (1966/67, 1967/68, 1968/69, 1970/71) and two as Welsh champions (1970/71, 1971/72).
London Welsh were also crowned Western Mail ‘Unofficial’ Welsh Champions and Whitbread Welsh Merti Table winners in 1971/72. Jones also helped Middlesex win the English County Championship title in 1967/68, when he partnered England lock Chris Ralston in the second row in a 9-6 triumph over Warwickshire.
He was one of 13 Welsh internationals who went on London Welsh’ first major overseas tour to Ceylon in 1972, when they scored more than 100 points in three of their six games, and his final appearance for the club was at Bridgend on 14 October, 1972. He retired at the age of 32 to concentrate on his job as a merchant banker.London Welsh Club President John Dawes OBE was a contemporary of Jones, playing with him at London Welsh for many years. Dawes says, “London Welsh have lost a great player and a great friend. There is no doubt he made an outstanding.