Alun Wyn Jones is arguably one of the greatest players to have graced the rugby field for Wales. So far in his illustrious career, the 35-year-old has established himself as part of a select group of players to have won three Six Nations Grand Slams with the Dragons. In addition, he’s earned Player of the Tournament honours.
Jones has been one of the finest on-the-field leaders for the team, displaying an impressive level of grit, determination, discipline, and quality. He was the perfect choice to lead Wales following the retirement of Sam Warburton in 2018.
Due to his exploits, Warren Gatland selected him as the skipper for the 2021 Lions Tour to South Africa. However, fate played a cruel hand in denying Jones his dream as he suffered a dislocated shoulder in the Lions’ warm-up fixture against Japan at Twickenham. That said, his absence has not affected the odds for Lions Tour, with the tourists backed at 4/5 to triumph over the world champions. If you follow the rugby predictions, the series is expected to be a tough, well-contested affair that the Lions narrowly edge.
Jones now has the immense task of regaining his fitness in preparation for the upcoming Autumn Internationals, where he will hope to bring Wayne Pivac’s side further momentum after their triumph in the 2021 Six Nations. Wales were not at their best in the Six Nations but were clinical enough to take the crown courtesy of Scotland’s win over France in the final match of the tournament. Their own hopes of the Grand Slam had been ended the previous week by Les Bleus and a late collapse at the Stade de France.
The lock will be determined to overcome his injury in time for the contests, but he also must be honest about his own form and fitness. At the age of 35, Jones will be pushing to make himself available for the World Cup in 2023. The Webb Ellis Cup has evaded Wales throughout their history, despite the outstanding levels of talent at their disposal. Also, the 2019 World Cup was a major disappointment as the Dragons matched South Africa for large portions of their semi-final clash, but they just fell short of the final due to the excellence of the Springboks.
A player of Jones’ calibre will not want his final act in the tournament to be one of near failure. He will be 37 by the time the next competition comes around, but if he continues to operate at his current level then he will justify his place. Wales will certainly be one of the leading contenders for the Webb Ellis Cup, with the lock leading a potential charge.
However, Jones will also not want to outstay his welcome. Adam Beard, his replacement in the Lions squad, is a player on the rise in the second row. Meanwhile, Seb Davies, Rhys Davies, and Ben Carter are all promising talents that could prove a point in the autumn should Jones’ recovery take longer than anticipated.
Pivac will have a loyalty to his skipper, but there must come a time when both player and coach recognise it’s time to move on. Jones has bounced back from previous injuries and it would be no surprise to see him dominate the field once again. However, it could well be the beginning of the end for the lock at the highest level.