Alun Wyn Jones will set a new world record of 149 Test match appearances in Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations game against Scotland.
Here, the PA news agency reflects on a memorable career in the red shirts of Wales and the British and Irish Lions.
Where it all started
Jones’ international career began 7,500 miles from Wales at the sporting outpost of Estadio Raul Conti in Puerto Madryn, Patagonia, 14 years ago. Selected by new Wales coach Gareth Jenkins alongside James Hook, Richard Hibbard and Ian Evans among four debutants in the match-day 23 against first Test opponents Argentina that June afternoon, 20-year-old Jones started as blindside flanker, joining back-row colleagues Gavin Thomas and Alix Popham, who were both sin-binned. Wales suffered a 27-25 defeat after matching the Pumas 3-3 on tries, but Jones was off and running at the highest level, and the rest is history.
Wonderful Wales career
Jones has enjoyed a stellar spell in Wales colours, making 139 appearances for his country that included setting a new national cap record when he overtook former prop Gethin Jenkins during last year’s World Cup. He has been part of four Six Nations title-winning campaigns and three Grand Slams, played in four World Cup tournaments and helped Wales reach two World Cup semi-finals. He was Six Nations player of the tournament last year, and only Sam Warburton has captained Wales more times than Jones. Above all, though, his unrelenting quality of performance make him arguably Wales’ greatest player.
Jones’ World Cup story
In the early stages of Jones’ Test career, Wales were inconsistent performers. No greater an illustration of this came at the 2007 World Cup, where a dramatic pool stage defeat against Fiji in Nantes meant an early exit and coach Gareth Jenkins losing his job. Warren Gatland’s appointment as Jenkins’ successor in early 2008, though, kick-started a spectacular change of fortunes, with players like Jones, Warburton, Mike Phillips and Taulupe Faletau to the fore. Wales reached the 2011 World Cup semi-finals before having Warburton sent off and losing by a point to France, were quarter-finalists four years later and then semi-finalists again in Japan 12 months ago. Jones has made more World Cup appearances – 21 – than any other Welshman, and proved a driving force on the global stage.
Jones has roared with the British and Irish Lions
Jones has played more Tests for the British and Irish Lions than any other current player. His total of nine comes from being an ever-present in the Lions’ last three Test series – South Africa (2009), Australia (2013) and New Zealand (2017). He is equal-eighth on the Lions’ all-time Test appearance list with Syd Millar and Andy Irvine, and one behind Sir Gareth Edwards. Jones will be approaching his 36th birthday when the Lions tour South Africa next summer, but his credentials mean he is among the captaincy candidates head coach Warren Gatland will surely consider. Jones skippered the Lions to a Test series-clinching win against Australia in 2013 when tour captain Sam Warburton was injured.
Where will it all finish?
Given Jones’ fitness levels and his relative lack of injuries, it would be no surprise to see him being part of the 2021 Lions tour and maybe continuing his Wales odyssey beyond that. Jones will be 38 when the 2023 World Cup takes centre-stage in France, yet given careful continued game-load management by his regional team the Ospreys, a fifth appearance on rugby union’s global stage cannot be discounted. Jones’ drive and desire is unquestioned, and there appears no sign of him slowing down yet. Jones, and only Jones, will know when the time is right to call time on a truly spectacular career.