Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Warren Gatland leads the tributes to Alun Wyn Jones ahead of landmark appearance

Jones is set to become his country’s most capped player.

Alun Wyn Jones has played a key role in Wales’ success (David Davies/PA)
Alun Wyn Jones has played a key role in Wales’ success (David Davies/PA)

By Andrew Baldock, PA Rugby Union Correspondent

Warren Gatland says that Alun Wyn Jones “deserves the accolades” as he prepares to become Wales’ most capped player.

Lock Jones will make his 135th Test-match appearance – 126 for Wales and nine in British and Irish Lions colours – in Sunday’s World Cup warm-up clash against England at Twickenham, overtaking prop Gethin Jenkins.

“In the last 12 months, he’s done an outstanding job as captain of the side,” Wales head coach Gatland said.

“He’s a player that led incredibly well by example and his attitude during the Six Nations. He is recognised worldwide as one of the best in his position. He thoroughly deserves that.

“The bigger the occasion, the bigger the challenge, the more he seems to thrive. He’s comfortable in the position he’s in at the moment, and he deserves the accolades that are thrown his way.

“What I like about him at the moment is his calmness and the respect he has from the other players. Also, his ability to allow other senior players in the team to express themselves and have a voice.”

Gatland has named a team that includes 13 starters from the Six Nations title and Grand Slam-clinching victory over Ireland in March.

The only players who did not feature in the starting XV against Ireland that run out at Twickenham are prop Nicky Smith and flanker Aaron Wainwright.

bpanews_1ade8a41-119b-47de-ad22-77374829a3db_embedded239482899
Alun Wyn Jones is set for a landmark appearance on Sunday (Paul Harding/PA)

And it means Gatland parades a side that includes the likes of established players such as Jones, full-back Liam Williams, wing George North, centre Jonathan Davies and flanker Justin Tipuric.

Wales face a return appointment with England in Cardiff on Saturday week, then meet Ireland home and away. Their opening World Cup game is against Georgia on September 23.

Gatland is currently overseeing a 41-man training group before cutting that number by 10 players and announcing his final World Cup squad on September 1.

Wales could be forced into a late change on the replacements’ bench this weekend, with scrum-half Aled Davies likely to take over from Tomos Williams.

Gatland added: “He (Williams) got a shoulder knock in training today. I don’t know the extent of that, but it would probably rule him out of Sunday.

“We originally picked Cory Hill in the second row, but his ankle is a little bit tight and we decided it wasn’t worth the risk. If we feel we need to protect some players, then we’ll do that.

“Josh Navidi had been troubled by a hamstring injury and is back in full training today, and we’ve been looking after James Davies, who has had issues with the back.

“Samson Lee has a hamstring issue, Rob Evans has a shoulder and a neck irritation. Hopefully, they will come into consideration over the next couple of weeks.

The bigger the occasion, the bigger the challenge, the more he seems to thrive Warren Gatland on Alun Wyn Jones

“We are trying to be smart about players we expose, but also trying to manage some others.”

Asked about the make-up of his final World Cup squad, Gatland said: “If you gave a piece of paper to everyone in this room and the whole squad, they could probably write down 23 or 24 players who had a good chance of making it.

“That’s completely understandable given where we are at the moment and players that have delivered for us.

“But there are those fringe players, ones coming back from injury, that will get an opportunity through training and probably that home game against Ireland (on August 31).”

PA

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph