Felix Jones says Craig Casey and Jack Crowley have breathed life into ‘desperate’ Munster
Felix Jones has a foot in both camps this weekend, willing his Munster mates to end their long wait for a trophy while also preparing to welcome his Stormers players into the Springboks’ camp on Sunday.
So, the Dubliner is diplomatic when he says he’ll be happy whichever way Saturday’s United Rugby Championship final goes; although he believes the locals may not quite appreciate how much the Irish province want to end their long wait for silverware.
Jones soldiered with Munster’s senior men as a player and was part of the team that won the Celtic League in 2011 and lost the final to Glasgow in 2015, while he was coach when they lost the final to the Scarlets in 2017.
Now assistant to Rassie Erasmus and preparing for the Rugby Championship, he’ll be an interested spectator as the two teams go head to head at the DHL Stadium.
"You want the Stormers guys to play well and come in with a bunch of confidence, but then I know the whole history of Munster and how much of a deal that's been made in Ireland about a lack of trophies and being desperate to win it,” he said in Cape Town yesterday.
"Over here, probably people aren't quite aware of how desperate Munster are to get over the line and get silverware in the cabinet.
"Probably, a lot of players are coming to the end of their time; guys similar age to me who are looking to finish strong.
"But there are also guys who have breathed a lot of life into Munster the last few years and it would be great for those guys to almost start their career off, change the trajectory or the way things are.
"Everyone says it's Leinster out in front and deservedly so, with the question of 'is it Munster or is it Ulster or is it Connacht? It would be amazing for them, but it'd be also great for the Stormers."
While he empathises with the men he lined out with, Jones is particularly taken with the lease of life that’s been injected by the cohort of young guns who have come in this season and made a mark under Graham Rowntree.
"There's that older group of players who have gone close a number of times.
"Pete (O’Mahony) was actually part of the squad in 2011, he has got a medal. Conor (Murray), Earlsy (Keith Earls), Archie (Stephen Archer) too - there's a guy who had 230-plus caps.
"Obviously, for those guys it would be amazing.
"But that younger crop, it's more exciting for them. If I was sitting in the changing-room, they have the opportunity to say 'we are the URC winners'.
"It would be amazing for those guys, but equally for the other guys.”
Asked which players in particular have caught his eye, Jones pointed to the half-backs.
"Jack (Crowley) has a big-game temperament, you can see it from miles off,” he said.
"Craig (Casey) is just this dynamo, when I was there he was still coming through the Academy and we gave him his first cap against Ulster.
"You know from the word go, he's just this ball of energy. You can see it in the way he plays, he's like that off the field; non-stop analysis, always having conversations off the field. Constantly doing extra work.
"Craig is just an energy giver, you can see it.
"To use those guys as an example, they've breathed life into the place in terms of energy, courage or bravery."