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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 January 2006, 19:39 GMT
Jones secures return to Scarlets
Stephen Jones
Stephen Jones has impressed in his time with Clermont-Auvergne
Wales and Lions fly-half Stephen Jones will return to Llanelli Scarlets from Clermont Auvergne next summer.

The 28-year-old's contract in France expires at the end of the season.

The French club were keen for him to stay and Cardiff Blues tried to sign him, but Jones returns to his Stradey Park roots on a three-year deal.

"We always hoped it would be case of au revoir rather than goodbye and that has proved to be the case," said Scarlets chief executive Stuart Gallacher.

"We are building one of the most exciting back divisions in Europe and I know Stephen is excited about our plans."

The news will boost Wales head coach Mike Ruddock, who urged Jones to join a Welsh club ahead of the 2006/7 World Cup season.

"I want to see all our best players playing in Wales," said Ruddock. "I believe it is in their best interests."

Jones, who has 51 caps, is a key player in Ruddock's Six-Nations winning squad and played in all three Lions Tests during the tour of New Zealand.

Ruddock argues that the fly-half will benefit from longer periods of rest in between international and domestic games.

"In France he would not have had the same period of rest, recovery and conditioning after the Lions tour that the Welsh-based players benefited from," said Ruddock.

"We have a good working relationship with the clubs outside Wales, but players can be caught in the middle, having to jump on planes after international matches, playing more games over a longer season.

"There is only a certain amount of time a player can sustain that intensity."

Stephen Jones on the Lions tour
Jones was first-choice fly-half for the 2005 Lions

Playing in the Celtic League means Jones's availability will increase as French and English clubs are only obliged to release players for three matches in November, when Wales organise four Tests.

Jones turned his back on the Scarlets when he opted to leave them to join Clermont-Auvergne in August 2004.

At the end of his first season with Clermont, Jones was voted the best fly-half in the French Championship by respected weekly rugby magazine Midi Olympique.

The move back to the Scarlets, who have struggled to replace him, will reunite Jones with his Lions and Wales half-back partner Dwayne Peel.

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