'Family Fixture' - England's Meg Jones Talks Welsh Father's Support Ahead of Six Nations Spectacle With Wales - Ruck

‘Family Fixture’ – England’s Meg Jones Talks Welsh Father’s Support Ahead of Six Nations Spectacle With Wales

After commencing their 2024 Women’s Six Nations campaign with an emphatic 48-0 win over Italy, the Red Roses now turn their attention to Saturday’s second round fixture, as they take on Wales in Bristol’s Ashton Gate. England centre Megan Jones is eagerly anticipating the fixture, as the versatile back was actually born in Cardiff, and is even a native Welsh speaker.

The Anglo-Welsh fixtures certainly drum up a lot of attention due to the locality of the rivalry, with such fixtures embodying the true spirit of the Six Nations. In the men’s Championship, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso was in the spotlight for England, as the Cardiff-born wing was selected for Steve Borthwick’s side, yet was an unused replacement in the victory over Warren Gatland’s team at Twickenham. Jones is ready to go one better and take centre stage for England, in what will be the Leicester centre’s first on-field action against Wales.

Jones spoke in a recent Red Roses media conference, about how the fixture has garnered some extra attention from her family. The midfielder discussed how her father is a keen supporter of both sides, given the family ties across the River Severn, and how Megan stars in the Red Rose of England. Given the fixture’s locality of Bristol, plenty of Welsh fans are set to make the trip across the bridge, with Jones’ father expected amongst them.

“Around 17,000 tickets sold so far. So it’s certainly growing which is amazing. I hope it’s going to be a bit of a spectacle. So I think it’ll be a bit of a corker so I’m looking forward to it, massively”

“That’s no secret, I think. You know, look, it’s probably no different to any other game. My Dad’s probably looking a bit closer, because he loves watching Wales, in particular, but obviously he loves supporting me and the girls as well. So again, nope, no different preparation, particularly for my end. But you know, there’s going to be a lot of passion on the weekend, and there’s going to be a lot of passion from our end as well. So that’s going to be positive.”

“I’m letting out a bit of a secret, it is actually my first time playing Wales. So yeah, it’s going to be good. So, it’s going to be an interesting one. In terms of the (match day) build-up and stuff it’s different. I think it’s going to be I guess, one to remember if I take the field, I think, particularly the build-up as well. Like I said, my Dad is going to be the biggest supporter on both ends, which is really important as well for me.”

Jones has been apart of the England set-up since 2015, having gained recognition plying her trade with Bristol Women. A Swiss army knife on the rugby pitch, Jones has excelled for England in both the Sevens and 15s stages, and also won Bronze for Great Britain at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, as well as a Gold medal at the 2023 European Games. Speaking on her journey into the England squad despite her Welsh roots, Jones expressed how when the opportunity presented itself, she took the ‘leap’ for a career in the Rose.

“Yeah, I mean opportunity. Like most things, you know, any job you go into or any path you decide as a player or person, you want your best opportunity and you want to put your best foot forward. And at that time when I made the decision in 2014/2015, that’s obviously when England won the World Cup. It was obviously very positive from their end. But yeah, I made that leap. And it’s been the best leap I’ve made since.”

Looking at this weekend’s Welsh opposition, and Jones discussed how there is a heavy Gloucester-Hartpury contingency within the squad. In total Ioan Cunningham has called up 13 players from the Cherry and Whites for his Wales camp, who will be getting set for a club reunion with the likes of Zoe Aldcroft and Mo Hunt. Jones discussed England are not focussed on particular individuals, as the Red Roses will call upon valuable experiences in the PWR to piece together the win.

“Yeah, well, look, I think playing in the Premiership we know all those players, so I don’t think it really needs to be highlighted. But look, we are going to go out there, we’ve got a game plan that we want to try and achieve. It’s not (about) shutting down particular individuals, but it’s stopping them playing as much as we can.

“Ultimately, we want the ball to score tries, so how we get that ball back we’ll be in you know, pressured situations and trying to get the ball back as much as we can. So they’ll be trying to do the same thing. So that’s what makes the game exciting I guess.”

England had an unexpectedly delayed start to proceedings last Sunday, as it took them over half an hour to get any points on the board against Italy. This coupled with an eleventh minute red card to number eight Sarah Beckett, compiled an underwhelming first 40 minutes for the Red Roses all things considered against the Azzurri.

Thankfully, the plans clicked into gear in the second half, and England ran away with the fixture through some formidable phases of attacking play. Looking back to last weekend’s mixed-bag in Italy, Jones focussed on the positives of not conceding a single point;

“I think you know, we got thrown a couple of situations that we were kind of dealt with, which we dealt with really well. So it was really positive from our point of view, just showed how we could lead under pressure when things weren’t going our way, obviously being 14 players on the pitch, down to 13 at one point as well.

“I think it was just one of those things. We were happy with the result, happy with how we went about our business, and just positive really going into the next game. Defensively we showed that we were capable of keeping teams out. I don’t think they (Italy) got into our 22m much. I think that’s just a really good positive going into the Wales game as well.”

Defending with numerical disadvantages has been a recent focus of the Red Roses, with John Mitchell’s side aptly prepared for the unwanted situations. It has been confirmed that Sarah Beckett faces a three match ban for her ‘crocodile roll’ offence, and will miss out on the upcoming fixtures against Wales, Scotland and Ireland in the Women’s Six Nations. With the back-row out of the fold, Mitchell will re-shuffle his side, yet expects them to deal with any similar circumstances.

“Definitely. In most (weeks), not just this weekend, you would have kind of sparked that. But most teams you go into, and you probably hear this a lot, but we we play scenarios. You might play scenarios out in your head or, as a team will play scenarios, maybe someone will go down, as injuries happen. So it’s really important that we first try and foresee those things as a team, and how we can collectively re-group and get the best outcome.

“We did that on the weekend. So as hats off to all the drivers on the pitch, who are leading that and you know, I think probably just shows where we’re at as a group.”

There has been plentiful change in the Red Roses camp, including the return of Zoe Harrison and Emily Scarratt to the England back-line after lengthy injury breaks. Jones enjoyed her experience of linking up with the iconic backs, as she made a replacement appearence out in Italy. Speaking on how the pair of experienced England playmakers are settling back into the Red Roses, Jones could only praise the new options it has opened up in the team’s attack.

“Yeah, Zoe did good, she was back in the mix. She was pretty happy to have that Red Rose back on so that was amazing to see. She did extremely well, and look, there’s different connections out there, you know, you got ‘Scazzy’ (Emily Scarratt) playing at 12 as well being back from a long term injury. So yeah, there’s loads of (opportunities). People keep saying they are ‘dusting the cobwebs off’ but I think there are loads of opportunities and positives that have come out of that, in terms of us building our connections. So yeah, she did a good job.”

After the opening round of the Championship, England sit atop of the table with France firmly in-tow. Both the Red Roses and Les Bleus achieved bonus point wins, whilst Scotland narrowly pipped out Wales with a 20-18 win in Cardiff. The gap could well be set to close in on England and France this season, with Wales and Scotland both set to pose strong tests for the front-running favourites.

The Championship is in no way a two-horse race just yet, as a Welsh upset would open up the tournament for the following rounds of action. Speaking on the recent improved performances of Scotland and Wales, and how the two Celtic nations as well as the Italians, are steadily closing in on England and France, Jones added;

“Yeah, again, it shows how competitive the games are getting. Particularly, you know, the three teams there in Italy, Scotland and Wales, those would be three big games between themselves and obviously everyone’s chasing that. The third spot’s chasing that World Cup qualification as well. So is big, big stuff here.

“I think Wales you know, they’re going to give everything, all guns blazing, coming out to our game and they’re going to want to right some wrongs. And so, you know, again, they pride themselves on passion, and a lot of energy and I imagine they’ll be doing the same this weekend.”