Jones lays down a challenge to London Welsh
The Exiles face Pool A rivals Bristol in front of the live Sky Sports cameras needing just a solitary point from their final two fixtures to secure their third consecutive Championship semi-final appearance.
However, that could prove academic should Nottingham fail to come away with a bonus-point win when they travel to Doncaster 24 hours earlier.
Jones doesn’t believe the two-week break will have an adverse affect on the Exiles, but he’s challenged his players to make sure that’s the case on Sunday.
“I don’t anticipate it being difficult, but it’s down to the individual,” said Jones. “Players should realise that every time they cross that white line they get measured – their livelihoods depend on the strength of their performance.
“All you’re looking for is boys to be more consistent in the way they prepare during the week, and consistency and continuity in performance. If you can do that you’ve got a future, and a successful one.”
Last time out, Welsh ran in five tries in a 40-19 win over Doncaster at Castle Park to leapfrog Bristol in the table, after they were held to a draw at the Memorial Stadium by the Green & Whites.
Jones admits that on balance the Exiles would probably have preferred to have kept going, after their win at Doncaster maintained Welsh’s unbeaten start to play-offs.
“Momentum is a wonderful thing, it’s like playing well in the first half – you just don’t want half-time,” he said.
“Likewise now, we’re really pleased with the way we’ve played and the way we prepared for Doncaster. We’ve built up some momentum, so it will be interesting to see how we respond after the break.
“I think players can take the break for what it is and that’s a chance to recharge physically and mentally and come back bigger and better, and build on the things they’ve progressed on. Bad players can’t do it.”
With Nottingham holding Bristol to a draw, the Exiles knew that victory over Doncaster would send them top of Pool A, while the Knights needed victory to keep alive their slim hopes of reaching the last four.
The home side trailed by a point at the break, but the Exiles controlled the second half with Nick Scott completing his hat-trick to ensure Welsh got the win they needed to leapfrog Bristol in the table.
“Doncaster are a very good attacking side and going away from home is never easy,” said Jones.
“Having said that, I would say our away record this season is better than our home record and that’s an area of concern that the players need to address before the next fixture.
“To score 40 points (v Doncaster) in a game of rugby is fantastic, so for us to do it away from home in the play-offs against one of the better sides is a double-whammy.
“It wasn’t a case that Doncaster were short of players through injury or played badly, they played well. It’s just that we took our chances in attack and played well.”
Victory over Bristol on Sunday would guarantee the Exiles top spot in Pool A, but Jones does not believe that will be of any discernable advantage to Welsh.
“Normally it’s good to finish on top because you avoid the better side in the other pool, but I think the four teams that qualify for the semi-finals will be of equal ability and can beat each other on the day,” he said.
As for the Exiles only requiring one point to book their place in the semi-finals, or for Nottingham to drop a point, Jones is not unduly concerned by such permutations.
“What’s important to us now is building on the performances we’ve put in so far by looking at consistency, realising our potential as individuals to reflect our team performance and if we can do that then league positions look after themselves,” he said.
Sunday will be Welsh and Bristol’s fourth meeting of the season. Jack Tovey’s late try gave Bristol a 35-33 win over the Exiles in an eight-try thriller in front of the live Sky Sports cameras in October.
Tries from Saul Nelson and Hudson Tonga’uiha then saw Welsh run out 23-17 winners at Old Deer Park, while Bristol needed a penalty from former Exile Matthew Jones with the last kick of the game to earn a 12-12 draw when the sides met in the play-offs at the Memorial Stadium last month.
Welsh will be particularly keen to reverse that last-gasp defeat to Bristol in front of the Sky cameras – a game the Exiles led from Rob Lewis’ first minute try. And Jones believes the fact that Sunday’s game is live on Sky is sure to have a bearing.
“People are measured by their peers and everyone will want to put in a good strong performance. It’s going to bring out another edge in the 30 players who start the game,” he said.