ROTHERHAM TITANS say the capture of former Wales star Mark Jones as their “outstanding” new head coach is a signal of just how far the club have advanced in recent times.
After a long and diligent recruitment process, Jones signed up on Thursday to take over from Wasps-bound Lee Blackett as the man to take charge of the Championship outfit.
The 35-year-old’s appointment is, indeed, one of the South Yorkshire club’s biggest coups to date.
The ex-Llanelli captain scored 13 tries in 47 Tests for Wales and was part of their 2008 Grand Slam winning side, but injury two years later forced his early retirement.
However, Jones immediately moved into coaching as Llanelli’s skills coach where he has earned a fine reputation working for the region.
Rotherham director of rugby Martin Jenkinson told The Yorkshire Post: “We are delighted to have secured a coach of this calibre – Mark Jones is as good as you are going to get.
“I know the news has given our boys a real boost before the start of pre-season which starts on Monday.
“It is a sign of the progress we have made here in the last two years that we have been able to sign a coach of such class.”
Jones beat off stiff competition from Andy Key, the 56-year-old former Leicester Tigers coach who was Leeds Carnegie director of rugby from 2008 to 2011, to take the role at Clifton Lane.
Having seen Blackett – still only 32 – inspire Rotherham to successive top-four finishes against the odds in his two years in charge, Jenkinson admitted the club wanted to follow a similar path.
“We set out with a template and part of our spec was that we wanted a coach who is older than the players he leads but is still able to relate to them as well,” he said.
“Mark is three years older than Lee and he is the man we wanted for this job. We narrowed it down to a shortlist of about five names and two were outstanding candidates. And we’ve gone this way.
“He is a very detailed person, very articulate and you can tell the only reason he is coming to Rotherham is to win and achieve.
“The way negotiations have gone, he’s massively professional; throughout the whole contract process he didn’t leave anything to chance and went through everything with a fine tooth comb and we’re looking forward to him starting.”
Jones has signed a two-year contract and Jenkinson added: “We’ve got four new signings still to announce and the recruitment is just about finished.
“We’ve retained more than 20 players from last season’s play-offs, though, more than we have ever done at Rotherham, and added one or two more who will hopefully lift standards further again.
“Our target again has to be to get into the top four again and give ourselves a chance (of promotion).
“We know we are massively under-resourced compared to some clubs, but it has not stopped in the last two years and now Mark wants to take us on further.”
After confirming earlier this month that they will continue playing at Clifton Lane in 2015-16, after a period of uncertainty about their tenure there, this latest news has left everyone at the club in a positive mindset ready to prepare for the new campaign that starts in September.
Jenkinson added: “As far as Rotherham supporters are concerned, Clifton Lane has always been good enough.
“It’s just the rugby world that says otherwise but for the second year running it’s been voted – by our peers throughout the country – as the best rugby experience in the division so we must be doing something right here.”