Crusaders and Canterbury Assistant Coach Mark Jones has confirmed he will not return to Christchurch ahead of the Crusaders 2021 Sky Super Rugby season, and will instead take up the position of Senior Assistant Coach with English club, Worcester Warriors.
Jones, a former Welsh international who joined the Crusaders and Canterbury teams this season and filled a specialist role assisting with team defence and position-specific player development, returned home to Wales with his wife and two children following the conclusion of Canterbury’s Mitre 10 Cup campaign. He made the difficult decision not to return to New Zealand amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, and has since been offered a coaching role closer to home, alongside former teammate Jonathan Thomas at Worcester.
Crusaders CEO Colin Mansbridge said: “Mark made a fantastic contribution to our club in 2020. He worked tirelessly across the Crusaders Super Rugby campaign, has built great relationships with staff and players alike, and was an integral part of our success this season.
“While we are sad to see him go, we understand the challenges brought about by COVID-19 and respect Mark’s desire to return home with his family. On behalf of the Crusaders Board and wider organisation, we wish Mark, Helen and their two sons all the very best.”
Crusaders Head Coach Scott Robertson echoed that sentiment: “Mark is a top man and has been a fantastic personality to have around our environment.
“In a short amount of time, he has added so much to our group with his character and extensive rugby knowledge. The Crusaders are better for his time with us this season and I wish him the best of luck in his new coaching role with Worcester.”
Canterbury Rugby Co-coach Mark Brown said Jones' input was significant throughout their team’s 2020 provincial campaign: “With all his international experience and Northern Hemisphere style of play, Mark really contributed to our first year as a coaching group with different experiences and ideas to Reuben and I.”
Reuben Thorne added: “Working with a young team, particularly a young backline, Mark helped us shape the foundations we set out to achieve with these young men, and we would have loved to have continued to build on that leading in to the 2021 campaign.”
Tony Smail, CEO of Canterbury Rugby, said Jones’ personality will be missed in the organisation: “Mark brought not only an impressive skill set, making significant contributions to our team’s on field performance, we thoroughly enjoyed having him around our people and our culture off the field.
“The Board, coaching team and I wish Mark and his family all the very best on their return to Wales and his new role. Whilst we are disappointed we won’t have him in our environment in 2021, we understand the complexities that exist for families living and working overseas, with COVID-19 impacting us all.”
Jones said he is grateful for the experiences he had as part of the Crusaders and Canterbury coaching teams: “I would like to thank Canterbury and the Crusaders for all their amazing support and understanding around my family situation and difficult circumstances on regaining entry to New Zealand.
“Their support in this transition has been immense. Coaching there has been a terrific experience that we will look back on with great memories. We have made great friends for life.
“Special thanks go to the players and supporters in Christchurch for taking us into their family over the last year. Canterbury and Crusaders are two of the few organisations that actually exceed their exceptional reputations around the world,” Jones said.
The Crusaders are currently working through options to cover Mark Jones’ portfolio, including a potential replacement, but no decision has been made as yet.