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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Abu Dhabi Harlequins prop Chris Jones-Griffiths unsure about return to UAE rugby team

Jones-Griffiths is back in action for Quins after recovering from slipped disc, but he keeps an open mind about national future as he reckons there are enough talented players up for selection

Chris Jones-Griffiths, fourth from left, made a surprise return to club rugby from semi-retirement this month. Satish Kumar for the National
Chris Jones-Griffiths, fourth from left, made a surprise return to club rugby from semi-retirement this month. Satish Kumar for the National

The most-capped UAE player says it remains unlikely he will play for the national team again, despite his surprise return to club rugby from semi-retirement this month.

Chris Jones-Griffiths played the full 80 minutes in the front row for Abu Dhabi Harlequins in their 20-17 loss to Jebel Ali Dragons in the West Asia Premiership on Friday.

A week earlier, he had made his first appearance of the season from the bench, against Dubai Sports City Eagles, after answering a call to return due to an injury crisis engulfing Harlequins.

Jones-Griffiths had himself spent months sidelined by a slipped disc suffered on international duty for the UAE in Malaysia last May. He had only expected to return to playing at all if the club were ever struggling for front-row forwards.

That was precisely the problem facing them this weekend. The defending champions were forced to forfeit their second XV’s Conference match against Dubai Exiles because they did not have adequate front-row cover.

Jones-Griffiths left his wife and son by the pool on their weekend family staycation at a hotel in Abu Dhabi to play against the Dragons at Zayed Sports City.

The UAE were no match for the Philippines in the Asia Rugby Championship Division 1 at Ipoh in Malaysia last year. Asia Rugby / Tigers Super Sports Media
The UAE were no match for the Philippines in the Asia Rugby Championship Division 1 at Ipoh in Malaysia last year. Asia Rugby / Tigers Super Sports Media

“Playing that last game in Malaysia [an Asia Rugby Championship loss to Philippines], it was a bad way to go out,” Jones-Griffiths, 37, said.

“You don’t want to go out on a loss. I came away from there thinking I would play this season, but unfortunately my body had other ideas.

“I said I was stepping away, which I was going to do, but there have been some bad injuries this year in our squad.

"Once my neck was better I wanted to get fit. When you see they are low on numbers, it felt like the right thing to do was to help out.”

The prop has played 25 times for the UAE, and been involved since the representative team first started playing Test rugby in 2011.

He says he could be coaxed back into the fold for the Asia Rugby Championship Division 1, at the end of the domestic season, if required, but believes there are enough other talented players available for selection.

“You never want to say never, but at this moment in time I have no aspiration to,” Jones-Griffiths said.

“If the squad did need cover, and I was still playing and my body was still in one piece, I would always answer the call, but it is not on my radar at the moment.”

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Read more

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‘Impossible to leave’: Jones-Griffith still has fire for UAE and Abu Dhabi Harlequins

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Dragons’ win ended the only remaining unbeaten record in the West Asia Premiership, and took them into the lead at the top of the table.

“We had a good, close win against Dubai Exiles a few months back, we had a good, close win against Bahrain last week, so we are in the habit of winning now,” Dragons captain Ross Samson said.

“We were inconsistent last season and at the start of this one, but we have some momentum, and it feels like we are getting the rub of the green now.”

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