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Home > News > London Welsh captain Jon Mills set to make 100th league appearance against Leeds
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Your News London Welsh captain Jon Mills set to make 100th league appearance against Leeds

London Welsh captain Jon Mills will make his 100th league appearance for the Exiles when they open their Championship campaign against title favourites Leeds Carnegie at Headingley on Sunday (3pm).

A notable landmark for the 27-year-old flanker, who made his debut for Welsh during a four-game loan spell in January 2007 before making the move permanent from the Scarlets the following summer, but one thats been a long time in coming.

Like a cricketer stranded on 99, Mills was left agonisingly one short of his century following the Exiles Championship semi-final defeat at the Cornish Pirates on May 1.

A showpiece Championship final would have been a deserved setting for Mills to reach such a milestone, but it was not to be and four months on he will instead raise his bat and acknowledge the applause of the crowd when he leads the Exiles out at Leeds.

Obviously it would have been brilliant had that been the case and we got to the final, but thats last year, said Mills.

Its done now and all our energy is focused on going up to Leeds on Sunday and making sure we start the new season really well.

Mills time at the club has spanned the jump from semi-professionalism to full-time professional, administration, the birth of the Championship and two subsequent semi-finals. Needless to say, its been eventful.

Its been a rollercoaster; weve had up and downs, but theres never been a dull moment. There have been plenty of highs; beating Exeter twice in the season they went up those were big moments for the club, he said.

There are a lot of people during my time at London Welsh whove been a big part of my life its a really special club.

Ive got a lot of really fond memories and Ive made a lot of great friends, on the pitch and off it.

Mills arrived at Welsh from the Scarlets with the Exiles embroiled in a relegation scrap, making his debut in a 24-11 win over Otley at Old Deer Park on January 6, 2007. He would remain unbeaten in his four game loan spell, which included a try in the cup win at Dings Crusaders.

I wasnt getting much game time at the Scarlets and I wanted to play some better quality rugby, and London Welsh gave me that chance, he said.

At the time I probably didnt see myself leaving the Scarlets, but the opportunity came up to join Welsh and theyd shown ambition that they wanted to get back up to where a club with that history should be.

So it made my decision easy, especially with the way theyd treated me, my family and my wife now Cassie. They really looked after us.

Its a welcoming club and its a family - youve got different boys who come from all different places. Whereas in past teams Ive played at, youd spend your time off with your family, here you spend it with each other because we dont have our families around us. I think that makes us a close knit group off the pitch.

Last season, though, was a frustrating one for the Exiles and Mills. Welsh comfortably secured their place in the top eight and got their play-off campaign off to a flyer with Mills putting in a man of the match display in front of Sky Sports cameras in a six-try demolition of Nottingham.

But having led 10-3 at half-time in their semi-final at the Cornish Pirates, their Championship title hopes disappeared in the second half as the home side fought back.

We still feel we should have got to the final last year, but its been and gone. Hopefully the boys who are still here will have learnt from that experience and hopefully it wont happen again, said Mills.

Lyn [Jones] has come in, along with a lot of good new boys, and hopefully that will help us go that next step and get to the final, and well see what happens from there.

One of the former Ospreys supremos first acts was to reappoint Mills as club captain for a second successive season a responsibility that the former Llanelli RFC, Llandovery and Bath man doesnt take likely.

I enjoy doing the job and I feel it brings the best out of me. It was a very proud moment and a real honour to be named captain, especially after some of the people whove gone before me, he said.

Maybe I originally didnt see myself being at London Welsh for that long, but Im very happy Ive been here for this amount of time.

And having twice ended up on the losing side in Championship semi-finals, Mills is determined to go at least one step further this season and the Exiles travel to Headingley on the back of an encouraging pre-season, as a narrow defeat at London Irish was followed up with 24-23 win away to Gloucester, thanks to Rob Lewis injury time try.

Im looking ahead to the new season with a lot excitement, especially after the pre-season fixtures, even though nothing is won during pre-season, he said.

Weve given two encouraging performances and played some good rugby. Weve had a good summer off and everyone is ready to go.

Weve 30-odd games in a row ahead of us, including mid-week matches, but weve got a good squad to deal with it and everyone is just itching to get the season started now.

It doesnt get much tougher, though, than facing Championship favourites Leeds in their own backyard on the opening weekend of the new season.

Obviously they have to be favourites; theyve come down from the Premiership, theyre looking to start really well and theyll have their home crowd behind them, said Mills.

Were going up there with nothing to lose. Were going to try and play our game and take it to them.

The last time Welsh travelled to Headingley on the opening weekend of the season was September 3, 2006. The Exiles won 16-10 thanks to a try from Amo Tauialo and 11 points from the boot of Sam Ulph.

A similar result on Sunday to mark Mills 100 league appearance for the Exiles would go along way to making the four-month wait worth while.

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