Last Friday, Paul Doran-Jones reached 50 appearances for Gloucester Rugby, his two outings as a replacement at the start of this season coming four years after his last match for the club, the Premiership play off semi final against Saracens in May 2011. A lot has happened in between, not all of it positive, and you sense there is catching up to do in terms of his career.
“There was a lot of heart in the decision to come back here” he told me. “It’s not a secret I had a terrible two years at Harlequins, I didn’t get on the pitch very much and as a competitive guy who only wants to play it was hard. For whatever reason I just couldn’t stay fit and I knew it worked here for me before so I’m trying to recreate that. In hindsight it would have been easy to say you should never have left but I did so to try and further myself.”
When he did depart Kingsholm that summer, the 26 year old Doran-Jones had played for England against Scotland and Ireland in the Six Nations and in the Barbarians match at Twickenham at the end of the season. His destination was Northampton, who has the formidable Brian Mujati as first choice tight head and who had just lost to Leinster in the Heineken Cup final after the Irish province produced a thrilling second half comeback. Four years on, Doran-Jones prefers to look forward rather than back.
“I don’t want to pick holes in the decisions I made, I can’t change them and I don’t necessarily think I would anyway” said Doran-Jones with a certainty that you need as a professional sportsman. “I don’t regret them and I do think I read the game better now. I have belief in my own ability and I know what I can do when I am fit and firing and I don’t think 30 is a bad age for a prop. There is still room for improvement in my performance and that is what I am looking to extract.”
Doran-Jones’ last international duty was on the summer tour to Argentina in 2013, when he had been head hunted by ‘Quins after they lost James Johnston to Saracens. There appeared no reason why he should not remain in the international picture, but Doran-Jones admits what transpired was very different.
“My form wasn’t great at The Stoop after I picked up a neck injury in my second game and carried it on and off for the whole season” Paul said. “The scrum rules changed and I never had a consistent run to adapt to them, and then last season I tore my calf early on and didn’t play again, which is why I can’t wait to pick up where I left off here if I can. I had a call to meet David Humphreys and Laurie Fisher and they gave me the opportunity to come back.”
It’s fair to say Doran-Jones hasn’t put many miles on the clock over the last four seasons. His total tally of Premiership appearances is less than half that of Nick Wood and there is only two years between them, and that may work in Gloucester’s favour in the long run, especially if Paul’s enthusiasm carries from our chat onto the pitch.
“Last season Gloucester were probably the form team after Christmas and there are some great people in and around the playing group” he said. “It’s a tough old schedule this year so we’re all going to be needed.”
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