AFTER the pain of being shown the door at the Dragons and doubting his own ability, Dorian Jones has rediscovered his joie de vivre and is ready to kick on in his second season in France.

The 27-year-old moved to Soyaux Angouleme in France’s second tier last May, moving with a year left on his contract at Rodney Parade.

Jones started in 17 of his 22 appearances and was rewarded with a fresh deal at Christmas less than halfway into his contract.

The fly-half will be in Angouleme until 2022, although his deal has release clauses should a Welsh team or one from the Top 14 come calling.

Jones is happy – “they have really taken me in and it’s a new home” – but a move to France wasn’t what he wanted this time last year.

Fresh back from a spell on loan with Worcester, the fly-half was ready to battle for the 10 jersey at the Dragons.

Free Press Series: Dorian Jones on the attack for the DragonsDorian Jones on the attack for the Dragons

“I am not sure if Bernard Jackman sorted it, but I had a phone call from a random French agent that I had never heard of saying that I had an offer,” said Jones, who made 66 outings for the region but just six in the former Ireland hooker’s first campaign at the helm.

“I was happy to stay at the Dragons, and had another year on my contract, but Bernard made it clear that no matter how good I was playing, I wasn’t going to be picked.

“I was off the back of starts for Worcester in the English Premiership and was really confident I could get back into the Dragons team but then I was strongly advised to make the move, and I had no other offers because it was late.

“It was really hard to hear but I couldn’t control his decision and it has turned out to be a really good move for me – I am playing week in, week out and I am enjoying my rugby again.

“A change of scenery has done me good and I have had a fresh chance to prove myself.”

Free Press Series: Dorian Jones lines up a shot at goal for Soyaux Angouleme (submitted picture)Dorian Jones lines up a shot at goal for Soyaux Angouleme (submitted picture)

It wasn’t just under Jackman that Jones struggled, after making his debut in 2013 under Lyn Jones his father, Kingsley, took the reins in 2016.

“After the Lyn era my old man came in and I could see that he struggled with it, having to manage me and the team,” said Dorian, who earned his Dragons chance by shining for Ebbw Vale and Cross Keys.

“There were some calls of nepotism and there was a group of fans who weren’t happy with me playing. It works with Dai and Thomas Young at Wasps but he is a Wales international and the best player on the field most weeks.

“It was difficult for both of us and I was probably ready for a new coach more than any other of the Dragons boys but I didn’t really get that fresh start under Bernard.

“I look back at the years under Lyn and that was when I played my best rugby; I was going really well when I ruptured my pec against the Ospreys (in 2016).

“I never really got back to the confidence and form that I had under Lyn until I went to Worcester.”

Free Press Series: Dorian Jones celebrates a victory (submitted picture)Dorian Jones celebrates a victory (submitted picture)

That continued in France with Jones making an impression in the south west, albeit the fly-half still has unfinished business in the UK.

“I probably would have liked to have come home after last season, because I feel that on that form I can compete at the regions,” he admitted.

“If I do get an opportunity to come back then I can, while I have also got a clause for if a Top 14 club comes in.

“I doubted myself towards the end at the Dragons, wondering whether I was good enough, but now I want to kick on again this season.”

“The top six would compete with the bottom six of the PRO14 while the bottom six don’t want to lose at home,” continued Jones.

“The league is really tight – with three games left we were in with a chance of the play-offs and could have gone up.

“But the president wants us to progress and we’ve got a new stadium ready for this season and have new staff with Adrien Buononato, who has coached Racing, Stade Francais and Oyonnax, and Mirco Bergamasco.

“Now we can start to look on and the play-offs will be our aim.”

Jones’ French needs work but life is good in Angouleme.

He said: “It’s a really nice town and reminds me a bit of Ebbw Vale – although without the rain!

“The people are very friendly and really passionate about their rugby, you get told how your game went by the old women in the street and we get 7,000 at home games.”

That passion for the sport is shared on the field by the town’s team, albeit that has its problems.

Les Angoumoisins topped the table last season for indiscipline with 36 yellow cards and three reds, a problem that almost led to Jones being a victim of a short fuse.

“I put my hand up in a meeting and said to the boys that we were getting too many yellow cards,” said the fly-half, whose sole contribution to the problematic record was a sin-binning for not rolling away.

“We lost by 50 points to Bayonne away and they said it was because of passion – we had a red card early on and then two yellows.

“I suggested putting a fine in of 20 euros for a card, then they might not want to punch people on the pitch… I got outside the meeting and the prop wanted to fight me!

“But our team look after each other and if there is any trouble then the boys are straight in.”

Free Press Series: TRY TIME: Dorian Jones is congratulated after a try for the DragonsTRY TIME: Dorian Jones is congratulated after a try for the Dragons

It’s fair to assume that Jones, at 5ft 8ins, isn’t leading the charge when fists are flying with the fly-half spending his time trying to avoid becoming a hefty forward’s scalp.

“One of the perks of French rugby is that they all love to drive the maul and push in the scrum, so as a fly-half you don’t have to defend as many starter plays as you do in the PRO14,” he said.

“But when you do have to defend they are all really big boys and when you attack they are all waiting to get their hands on the outside half! If they get hold of me then it’s my fault for not being sharp enough!

“In one of my first games, against Aurillac, one of the opposition had me by the balls at the bottom of a ruck and a few hit me late. I don’t know what they are saying to me afterwards, so it doesn’t really matter.

“But I think the move has developed my attacking game lots – the support lines and offloads are brilliant. In the UK you plan the phases and where you are going but that’s just not the case sometimes in France and you have to run the support lines from anywhere.

"It's been a really good move for me and I am looking to keep improving and showing what I can do."