Wales are set to have a dual code rugby international of a different kind next week, when James Jones lines up to referee a full men’s international Rugby League test match between Russia and Ukraine.
Jones, the Head of Match Officials for Wales Rugby League, has been appointed by the European Rugby League to the European Championships B match, which takes place next Wednesday 6th October at FC Heroj Polet Stadium in Belgrade, Serbia.
He will also run the line in the other two matches in this Serbian-based tournament – Serbia v Russia this Sunday and Serbia v Ukraine on Saturday 9th October.
Wales has produced 100 dual-code international players, as in those who have represented Wales in both a full international rugby union and Rugby League match, but Jones will become the first Welsh referee to have run the middle in both codes in a full international match.
Jones refereed four rugby union tests between 2007 and 2010, as well as over 100 sevens matches. He also refereed two rugby union Junior World Cup Finals, Saracens v South Africa at Wembley Stadium in 2010; and his final two seasons in rugby union before switching codes in 2013 saw him refereeing top level games in the European Cup, French League, Celtic League and English Premiership.
He first refereed a professional Rugby League match in 2017 and this year was appointed onto the newly formed International Match Officials Squad.
Delighted to be appointed, Jones said: “Switching codes was a tough period personally and the transition has been far from easy. I still remember the infamous call with Clive Griffiths gently persuading me to give it a go.
“As a sportsman we all have set goals. When I came into Rugby League, one of mine was to reach the highest level possible with the dream of becoming an international.
“To receive the honour of being the first ever Welsh dual-code rugby international referee again proudly representing Wales Rugby League is a humbling moment. I have had so much fantastic support over the years from the likes of Clive Griff, Ian Curzon and Ben Thaler, to name a few.
“However, I have to dedicate this to my close family who have been so supportive in this long journey. Mam and Dad especially have always been there in the background and my proudest moment will be getting to receive my cap and show them both. They were there for my first union international, but unfortunately unable to travel now due to ill health. It is common knowledge that I would not be the calibre of referee I have become without the guidance of Pap from a young pup starting out refereeing.
“The journey is far from over and I am taking every step game by game and enjoying every minute of it. Having achieved so many highs and hit a few lows along my career, this is a very proud moment and I am truly grateful to be given this opportunity.”
Wales Rugby League’s CEO Gareth Kear said: “We are all incredibly proud of James Jones for his success on and off the field. To see him become the first dual-code rugby international match official is truly a ground breaking achievement and one that I hope inspires all of the new generation of men and women Rugby League match officials in Wales. Following his appointment as Head of Match Officials he has also revolutionised the education and organisation for our match officials.”