During his time at RGC, Analyst Andy Jones was part of the team that gained 2 promotions.
How did you end up in North Wales ?
I began my career as a performance analyst at Bridgend Rugby Club in 2009. They had been relegated from the Welsh Premiership and I offered my assistance. We spent two seasons in Division 1 West, the first season the team almost got relegated and then the Ospreys stepped in to help out. I really enjoyed my time working with Gareth Nicholas and Craig Warlow, and later Gruff Rees and Steve Tandy. We finished the second season top of the division with four games to spare and then had a playoff match against Glamorgan Wanderers for a place in the Welsh Premiership, which we achieved winning 38-19. I wanted to gain as much experience as possible, so I also did some work experience at the Ospreys. The following season I started some work experience with the Cardiff Blues and helped Pontypridd and Cardiff as part of the initiative by the WRU, providing team and individual data/stats to the teams in the Welsh Premiership and then in November a job became available in North Wales...
What are your memories of RGC ?
There are so many. I loved working with the people involved at RGC, I learned so much from the coaches and still have friendships from my time there. I remember our first game in Wrexham, I think it was against COBRA in 2011, we barely had enough players for a full squad. We played a series of friendlies that season culminating in the game against Georgia A. We more than held our own, they beat us 17-25. The following season we were dropped into Division 1 East, and went on to win the league that season. I think we played the first six games away which was crazy. The first home game against Rumney where we had almost 1,500 spectators was amazing. One of the most satisfying parts of my job was to see the individual development of the players. Many have gone onto play professional rugby which has been great to see.
Do you have any highlights of your time in North Wales?
One of my favourite memories was during the 2015/2016 season and our crucial away win against Pontypool in 2016. If Pontypool had won they would have been promoted into the welsh premiership at our expense, it would have been a catastrophe. RGC would have continued to spend the next few seasons in the Championship. A few weeks prior to this match we lost 17-12 to Tata Steel, which put us under enormous pressure. I remember as we left some of their players commented “See you next season in the Championship”. A friend of mine played for Pontypool and later told me they all had their clothes to celebrate in after the match against us. I think they underestimated us. Probably once a season I’ll make a motivational video that the players will see on game day before they get on the bus. For me its more about helping focus the players and helping with their mindset. I remember after the video had been played Andy Williams commented that he had a lump in his throat, it had the impact I wanted it to have. We beat them 20-17 and went onto earn promotion. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work over a number of seasons by players and staff.
Where has your rugby journey taken you after RGC ?
I had an opportunity to join the England Sevens on the World Series after almost five years with RGC. We had an incredibly successful season finishing second overall. Beating South Africa at their home tournament in Cape Town was an incredible experience. Vancouver was also an amazing experience beating Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa on the final day to win the tournament. After that season I had an opportunity to join Grenoble in the ProD2. We lost the final heavily to Perpignan and then managed to pull out the performance of the season to beat Oyonnax in the Top14 Access Match to gain promotion. I received an offer to join Section Paloise in the South-West of France. It certainly has a kiwi connection and its been great to learn from the likes of Carl Hayman and Conrad Smith to name but a few over the last few seasons. This season was a tough one but it certainly provided some memorable victories, most notably beating Clermont away, something the club hadn’t achieved in the last 17 years.
What's life like in your current role?
I have been in France now for almost three years and now head of performance analysis at Section Paloise in the Top 14. During the season the main aspects of my role are to provide the coaches with essentially all the information they need. During the week it’s important to provide multiple angles of our training allowing us to review performance. We look at trends in our opponents, we work a week in advance when it comes to the opposition and have weekly strategy meetings. We will also preview the referee early in the week. Game day involves us providing multiple angles and live stats to the coaches and inputting data that can help identify what is working well and what needs to improve in real time. At half time we utilise footage and stats from the first half to help the players with the game plan, why they are missing certain opportunities, or to perhaps reinforce what is already working. After the game we look at the overall performance of the team and the performance of the players in depth, after which I will send a detailed stats report out to the coaches. The players can then review their performance ready for one on one meetings on Monday morning.
Did your time at RGC help develop you?
Absolutely. Without question. All the experiences of my time in N Wales prepared me to work at the elite level. From working at Parc Eirias where the facilities are excellent, working with the players, to the experienced coaches like Chris Horsman, Damian McGrath, Phil Davies and briefly Mark Jones, to providing performance analysis to the age grade teams, Llandrillo College, Rydal and the senior team. George Morris was also an asset and it is great to see him continue to be invloved. Another thanks goes to Bangor University and the links we set up, whch included Hannah Smith who joined for her studies at the time.
Looking back RGC was a great place to learn and develop myself as a performance analyst.