“Since arriving, I’d now definitely recommend it, although after six doubles things can get hazy,” laughs the Welsh coach of Russia’s men’s rugby team.
Russia’s opening match Friday could not be more high profile, either — a meeting against host Japan.
But irrespective of results at the World Cup — Russia shares a pool with more established rugby nations Japan, Ireland, Scotland and Samoa — Jones believes it has the potential to be the next powerhouse of the game.
“We’re the sleeping giant of rugby and I saw that with my eyes wide open to how many good players there are,” he tells CNN. “OK, the contemporary game is lacking a bit in terms of skills and tactics for how the game is played. That needs to be updated.
“But the club scene has gone from six clubs to eight and there’s an attempt to make that 10. The union are putting in good plans for the future of the game. Nothing will change overnight drastically but we have the right plan.”
Now Jones, a former Wales international and longtime coach in the Welsh regional set-up, is bidding to drag the Bears into the 21st century. Along the way there have been encouraging signs, not least a narrow 32-27 defeat by Japan last November.
“My job first is to make them as presentable as possible at the World Cup,” added Jones. “If we’re good enough to win a game that’s fantastic but it’s not just the World Cup but reversing Russia dropping down the rankings.
“That first game against Japan is unbelievable and fantastic, it really is. It’s a chance for the boys in Russia. They’re good players and there they can show how good they can be. I’m confident we’ll put a show up, but it’s a big challenge ahead of us.”
World Cup host ambitions
“I don’t think land mass or population is the way to look at it,” he explains. “Take China, India and America, for example. The two best nations in terms of punching above their respective populations and land mass are New Zealand and Wales. The key is the structure, Russia are putting together a good academy structure and there’s a club structure to grow into.”
Jones was approached for the job by another former Russia coach in Kingsley Jones, with whom he worked in Welsh rugby and is now coaching the Canada national side. Kingsley Jones acted as adviser too, talking his countryman through the “stories, characters and challenges of tier two international rugby.”
Japan in 2019 is just the start for both Lyn Jones and Russian rugby.
“There is a plan for success but what does that success look like?” he said. “That comes in many forms for a team ranked 20th in the world. It’s about beating sides but success also comes from the growth of the game and the numbers of people playing the game.”
So is the role of Rugby World Cup host beyond the realms of possibility?