Caps record awaits Wales captain Jones who has more to give
As Alun Wyn Jones prepares to become rugby's most capped test player, Wales coach Wayne Pivac believes his captain can go even further.
To a fifth Rugby World Cup in 2023.
"At the moment, there’s no reason he couldn’t go to another World Cup,” Pivac says. "Everyone has that moment where the body goes and you go off a cliff. But he could be one where you just throw away the birth certificate.”
Jones is aged 35. He'll turn 39 during the next World Cup in France but Pivac says Jones' dedication to preparation and recovery to ensure his body and mindset are right make him ageless. That ethic and passion has earned Jones a 149th test on Saturday, against Scotland in Llanelli in the Six Nations, to overtake New Zealand great Richie McCaw for the caps record.
"He does everything he needs to before he steps onto the pitch,” Pivac says of Jones.
"During training, he pushes himself to the limit. Post-training, he does all the recovery. An optional session isn’t optional for him. He’s religious with it.”
Pivac's predecessor, Warren Gatland, who has coached Jones in 12 of his 15 Wales seasons, says form will impress him more than age when it comes to picking the British and Irish Lions squad for the tour of South Africa next year. Jones has been on three tours.
Gatland isn’t surprised at Jones' latest milestone.
He notes Jones doesn't often get injured, has matured well, found balance off the field, leads by example, will challenge ideas, doesn’t hide from anything, and still doesn’t take the jersey for granted.
"It's an amazing accolade to become the world's most capped player, particularly from a small nation like Wales,” Gatland says.
"He's going to set the bar incredibly high. How long he can go on for? Maybe another 10 or 20 caps.”
In the meantime, Wales has a four-match losing streak to end, a big comedown after winning the Grand Slam last year.
After losing to France 38-21 in a Paris warmup last weekend, Pivac has made six changes, including dropping George North, playing Liam Williams after only one match since March, and giving the rangy Shane Lewis-Hughes an earlier debut than the coach wanted on the blindside flank.
"We'll be better for the match last week,” Pivac promises.
So will Finn Russell, whose reformation from outcast to outhalf was confirmed by Scotland coach Gregor Townsend in giving him his first start since the Rugby World Cup a year ago. Russell walked out on the team in January for discipline breaches and had a public spat with Townsend. Time has healed those wounds, and Russell impressed off the bench last week to finish Scotland's 48-7 rout of Georgia.
"He is full of confidence,” Townsend says.
Captain Stuart Hogg, Jonny Gray and Blade Thomson are also back for the rejuvenated Scots.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams, Jonathan Davies, Owen Watkin, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Taulupe Faletau, Justin Tipuric, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Will Rowlands, Tomas Francis, Ryan Elias, Rhys Carre. Reserves: Sam Parry, Wyn Jones, Dillon Lewis, Cory Hill, James Davies, Lloyd Williams, Rhys Patchell, Nick Tompkins.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (captain), Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, James Lang, Blair Kinghorn, Finn Russell, Ali Price; Blade Thomson, Hamish Watson, Jamie Ritchie, Jonny Gray, Scott Cummings, Zander Fagerson, Fraser Brown, Rory Sutherland. Reserves: Stuart McInally, Oli Kebble, Simon Berghan, Ben Toolis, Cornell du Preez, Scott Steele, Adam Hastings, Duhan van der Merwe.
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