When Aaron Jones entered high school, he was at a crossroads.
His high school did not have a soccer team. He was already at Ipswich Town Academy, but there wasn't an opportunity to gain additional minutes. So, he had a choice; play a different sport, or focus all of his athletic attention to Ipswich Town.
While he was still training with Ipswich Town, Jones also chose to play rugby.
"I picked up rugby when I was in high school," Jones said. "I had never really played it too much before, I had always been into soccer. My school didn't play soccer at all, which was quite strange in England. But I picked it up, started playing as a fly-half and absolutely loved it."
Jones played as a fly-half for four years, from Year 7 to Year 11. The fly-half which is one of the most important players on the pitch in rugby, and for good reason. A fly-half must have great vision and quick critical thinking skills. They must be quick on their feet, both in speed and agility, and be able to dodge and absorb contact. And perhaps the most important aspect of a fly-back is they must have expert kicking skills.
It's easy to see why Jones took to the position.
"I realized I was actually pretty good at it," Jones said. "As a fly-half, a No. 10, you end up kicking a lot of points. Conversions, trying to kick for touch and get in good field position for your team, so that was pretty much my duty for the team. I always took set pieces. I didn't realize there was quite a bit of tactics involved. Different players you can throw in. It's a thinker’s game, it's not just brute strength and just beat each other up. I really ended up enjoying it as a fly-half."
Jones's years playing soccer helped him adapt to the game fairly quickly, and the skills he learned while playing rugby also translated over to the soccer pitch quite easily. Rugby has shaped Jones's game, to the point where astute fans can see it today.
"I really loved the aggressiveness of the sport," Jones said. "You know, how some players like to get stuck in a tackle in soccer, and that's no different for people in rugby. The skills in rugby and soccer transferred quite well."
During his time in high school, Jones would play rival schools. During one particular match against a historically good rugby school, Jones impressed the opposing coach, who also happened to be a scout. The coach liked Jones so much that after the match, he asked him to come out and train with the Leicester Tigers, an English Premiership team.
"We were massive underdogs," Jones said. "We ended up winning 28-10; the score was pretty crazy. The coach of that team came up to me after the game and he invited me to go and train with the Leicester Tigers and go on trial with them, which was pretty cool."
Ultimately, Jones had a choice to make, continue with rugby or continue with soccer. It ended up being a tougher choice than he expected, but Jones chose soccer.
"I had a lot of commitments with soccer to go and train more in rugby," Jones said. "But it was a great opportunity. It was a lot of fun when I was playing."
Even though he is away from the game in terms of playing, Jones still pays attention to international rugby, specifically the England team, who, according to him, has been on a tear recently.
"I watch a lot of international rugby," Jones said. "The England team is absolutely flying. They've been one of the best sides in the world recently, coming up against the All-Blacks, and have had some really good games. When the Lions go on tour, I'm really into that. And obviously when the World Cup comes on every few years."
While he hasn't paid too much attention to club rugby, Jones is still excited for Talen Energy Stadium to be hosting Newcastle Falcons vs. Saracens in just more than a week.
"I heard that game was coming to Talen, and I was trying to grab some tickets to go and watch," Jones said. "I'm excited about that and looking forward to seeing some rugby, because I haven't seen a live rugby game in quite some time. It will be a good opportunity for me to see some talent at Talen Energy Stadium, that's for sure."
Fans can purchase tickets to Newcastle Falcons vs. Saracens here.