UAE's Chris Jones-Griffiths to retire – this time for good – after clinching Asia rugby title
UAE's most-capped player says successful tour feels like right time to finally sign off from international duty
Chris Jones-Griffiths has played 27 of the 30 matches the UAE have played in all. Chris Whiteoak / The National
The UAE’s most capped rugby player has confirmed he will hang up his boots – this time for good – after helping the team to the Asia Rugby Championship Division 2 title in Thailand.
Chris Jones-Griffiths was man of the match when the newly-formed UAE national team played their first Test match, a 13-13 draw in Sri Lanka in 2011.
He has played 27 of the 30 matches they have played in all, including most recently as a starter in both of the resounding wins last week as UAE sealed promotion back to Division 1 of Asia Rugby.
UAE beat Guam 82-7, then hosts Thailand 50-12 in Saturday's final to seal the Division 2 title.
Jones-Griffiths says the successful tour feels like the right time to finally sign off from international duty.
The Abu Dhabi Harlequins prop forward has attempted to retire from playing both for club and country many times in the past, only to think better of the idea.
He retired in the summer of 2017, but returned to club rugby midway through that season in response to an availability crisis at Harlequins.
As the club continued to struggle for players last season, he opted to play on, and ended up as captain of the side that won the UAE Premiership title.
• Jaen Botes urges UAE to 'step up a level' against Thailand in Asia Rugby Championship Division 2 final
• UAE begin climb back up the Asia rugby ladder against Guam
His international swansong could scarcely have gone better, and he says the side he is leaving behind can look forward to the future full of optimism.
“For myself, I just wish I was 10 years younger as this is a special group of players,” Jones-Griffiths, 38, said.
“Unfortunately for me my time has come, and I can look back in time with pride at what I have achieved.
“I’m sure, given the talent in the squad, they can go on and be successful in Division 1.”
Apollo Perelini, the UAE coach, says his side are heading back towards where they belong in Asian rugby.
In the early days of the national team, UAE finished as high as third in the top tier of the game on the continent.
Relegations, as well as withdrawals from competition, meant they had fallen to the third-tier of the game this season, but Perelini says they are well placed to climb back up.
“It was one of those games where the boys were really fired up for it,” Perelini said of the win over Thailand.
“One thing I was really happy about was in the first half they executed everything we wanted to do.
"We were relentless in attack, and ferocious in defence. We wanted to win the collision and go forward.
“Moving forward from here, we have to plan for the next eight to nine months, for playing in the Division 1 championship next year.
“We’re happy to be back in the Division 1 fold, and I really believe that we have good players and a good culture going on at the moment with UAE rugby.
“The players really look forward to playing for their country, and their adopted country. They are a tight bunch, a good group of guys, and I’m really happy to be coaching them.”