By Tom Walker | Head of Sport
Despite the heavily disappointing Welsh performance and result for Wales in the Six Nations finale against Scotland, the day was marked by Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones’ record breaking 149 Test match appearances. Jones surpassed the record of All-Black great Richie McCaw’s 148 who retired in 2015.
His 14 year-long career has been marked with a long list of personal and national success. Since his debut in 2006, Jones has been part of three British and Irish Lions tours (nine appearances), and four Rugby World Cups (21 appearances) and played in a record 57 Six Nations matches for Wales.
His journey to professional rugby started in his hometown Swansea. Jones played his first rugby for Bonymaen RFC.
“He was very quiet, polite and gentle as the big lads often are at that age.” explained his Bonymaen coach Kevin Brooks, “He was phenomenal and led from the front. I don’t think he was ever captain of any junior teams, but he was always there to listen and give advice. It was a great time.
He then went on to represent Wales at under-21 level and made his aforementioned Test debut for Wales in June 2006 against Argentina as a blindside flanker.
It is remarkable that the 35-year-old has been able to compete at the highest level for such a long period of time. It was only last year he featured in every Six Nations game in Wales’ Grand Slam victory, also being named Player of the Tournament, and leading his team all the way to the Rugby World Cup semi-finals where they eventually lost to South Africa.
It would not be a surprise to see the name Alun Wyn Jones printed on the squad list come France 2023 given his immense fitness levels and relative lack of injuries. The Lions Tour next year will certainly be on his mind given his status as still one of, if not the best second row in the world right now.
Despite it being the game in which he broke the record for most Test match appearances, his post-match interview to Wales’ disappointing loss to Scotland was a testament to his character and drive: “It’s got to get better, hasn’t it, first and foremost. We are quite candid on that, as Wayne has been as well.
“We go into the Nations Cup with a fresh start. I am pretty sure there will be changes and Wayne will continue giving people opportunities, so it is wide open in that regard.”
Jones will lead his team into those Nations Cup games on the back of four consecutive losses, something a serial winner like himself is not used to.
The three-time Grand Slam winner will still very much be at the heart of Wayne Pivac’s plan to turn this tough set of results around as Wales continue to transition away from the long Warren Gatland reign. His leadership and experience, something so hard to find in modern rugby, will be invaluable for Pivac.
With Jones still being contracted with the Ospreys until 2021, his career looks like there is no sign of slowing down. His combination of ball handling, scrummaging, sheer physical stature and the intangibles such as leadership and passion for the game, will undoubtedly leave him as one of the greatest ever to play rugby when he eventually decides to hang up the boots. But for now, I hope we don’t have to think of that day for a while longer.