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World Cup fitness fight for Keighley Cougars ace Danny Jones
Cougars star Danny Jones is facing a battle to keep his World Cup dream alive as he bids to play some part in the showpiece tournament.
The half-back sustained a groin injury during a training session after coming into camp with Iestyn Harris’ men a fortnight ago.
That has ruled him out of tomorrow’s opening match against Italy at the Millennium Stadium but he is desperate to come back into contention for the next group matches against the United States and the Cook Islands.
Jones, whose father moved from Wales to Yorkshire at a young age, said: “It would have been brilliant to run out in Cardiff but I’ll use the disappointment to try and get myself in contention for the next game.
“It’s frustrating because the week building up to the tournament you’re aiming to give the coach something to think about and put yourself in the frame for a spot in the side. But I’m trying to stay positive about it.”
The Keighley play-maker said the injury was progressing better than expected and he remains optimistic of being fit for the second and third games.
Following the international retirement of veteran Warrington star Lee Briers at the end of the 2011 Four Nations, 27-year-old Jones was keen to stake his claim for the role.
Wales have made steady strides under former Bulls stand-off Harris and Jones, who has ten caps to his name, said: “I’d like to play in the halves for Wales because it’s a position where I can influence the game.
“I don’t mind playing full back but I think being in the halves is going to be best suited to me in this team.
“Lee Briers has some pretty big boots to fill but I’m obviously one of the candidates who is looking to do that and someone is going to have to do it eventually.”
Harris has named a squad containing 14 players from Super League, eight of whom are Welsh-born, and Jones is confident they can make an impact on the tournament.
The inclusion of players such as Bradford duo Elliot Kear and Ben Evans, Wigan trio Gil Dudson, Ben Flower and Rhodri Lloyd and St George Illawarra forward Tyson Frizell has encouraged hopes that Wales can at least be competitive.
Nobody is looking past Australia, New Zealand and England as tournament winners but Italy’s shock warm-up win over England last weekend will have given all the minor nations hope.
Jones declared: “I don’t think we’ve previously had a Wales squad with so many full-time Super League players at any one time. The good thing about it is that it’s a good young squad as well.
“There are a couple of players over 30 but not too many. Everyone is keen to get going and having so many Super League players will only increase our chances of success in the tournament.”
Jones played in the 2011 Four Nations and again in last year’s triangular tournament with England and France.
He has been forced to give up work for a few weeks to be a part of Wales’ World Cup party, which is captained by ex-Bradford prop Craig Kopczak.
“I’m pretty lucky in that I work with my dad and my brother running our own scaffolding business,” said Jones.
“They understand me having time off for something like this because a World Cup only comes around once every five years.
“But at the same time it’s difficult because there’s not a regular wage coming in every week and bills still have to be paid even though you’re away.
“The money you get for Wales is not comparable to what I get in my main job and it’s something the RFL should be looking at really.
“The RFL aren’t the best for player welfare but it’s all about the honour of pulling on the jersey at the end of the day.
“Although it’s important to make sure things are looked after at home, this is a World Cup and is not an opportunity you can afford to miss.”
Meanwhile, the Cougars have strengthened their squad for next season with the signing of front-rower Lewis Graham from Huddersfield Giants and loose-forward Ash Lindsay from Batley Bulldogs.