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Shaun Edwards: Alun Wyn Jones among "greatest of great" players

New Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones has been bracketed in the same elite company as England World Cup winners Martin Johnson and Lawrence Dallaglio.

Jones will assume leadership duties for this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship instead of flanker Sam Warburton, who led his country in 49 Tests and was Wales' youngest World Cup captain in 2011 at the age of 22.

Wales assistant coach and defence specialist Edwards is a huge admirer of Jones and Warburton, and it is likely to be a seamless change when Jones takes charge, starting against opening Six Nations opponents Italy in Rome on February 5.

"Alun Wyn Jones is a man you want to follow into battle," Edwards said.

"He's one of the few players in our team who is guaranteed their place at the moment. He is a stand-out performer.

"He is an incredible athlete and he has a great rugby brain as well. To have such size, power and speed and also be such an intelligent rugby player means he has the full box of tricks. He is undoubtedly one of our world-class players.

"He has such a competitive edge. All the best captains have a competitive edge where they are desperate to win.

"I think what you have to take into consideration with Alun Wyn Jones is he doesn't just do that with Wales, he does it with the Ospreys too, and that's what the greatest of great players do.

"Martin Johnson did it, Lawrence Dallaglio did it and Alun Wyn Jones does it. They take their club rugby just as seriously as their international rugby, and that is something to be admired."

Edwards, meanwhile, hailed Warburton as a "warrior," adding: "Sam has played some brilliant games for us when he's been captain, and played some equally good games when he hasn't. It's all good.

"Sam Warburton is a warrior when he is captain, and he is a warrior when he's not captain. He has proven that many times before when he has not been captain and it hasn't impacted on his form. At times, it has enhanced his game."

Edwards will again be a key part of Wales' coaching team for what is his 10th Six Nations campaign, with a spotlight certain to fall on new tackle laws that recently came into play and are aimed at limiting contact with the head.

"You do have to change the approach a little bit," he added. "But let's be honest, it has always been in the rules that you can't smack someone around the head. Rightly so, too.

"The target area is now the midriff. We kind of reinvented the chop tackle, but you can't tackle below the knees any more. Obviously, the tackle zone is becoming smaller and smaller.

"Players are going to have to be incredibly accurate. But we will practise a lot and we will adhere to the rules, because if this is the way to go forward to stop the concussions, then we will give it our best shot.

"But I repeat, it has never been in the rules that you can smack someone around the head. So, there is not that much difference, really."


From Belfast Telegraph