The most-capped test player of all time, Wales’ Alun Wyn Jones, has rather predictably been appointed captain of the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour in South Africa.
It was a decision that the Lions coach Warren Gatland called “relatively easy”.
A leading contender for the captaincy role, Jones led Wales to this season’s Six Nations title. This will be his fourth Lions tour since he first toured South Africa in 2009 and also Australia 2013) and New Zealand (2017) with the composite side.
He has played in the Lions side’s last nine internationals in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand and also led the Lions to victory in the decisive 2013 Test against Australia, when tour captain Sam Warburton was injured.
Jones saw off competition for the captaincy from especially England’s Maro Itoje and Scotland’s Stuart Hogg for a tour that culminates with three Tests against the world champion Springboks.
“Obviously very proud, very privileged,” Jones said.
“To be selected in the squad is initially what you want to be hearing, and to have the armband as well is a privilege, with the names that have gone before and what those players have achieved.”
Asked how he had found out he had been selected as captain by Gatland, a former Wales coach, Jones said: “I had a call from Gats on Sunday evening, actually a missed call.”
“Thought better give him a call back.
“We had a quick chat and I accepted obviously.
“I’ve just got a huge amount of pride to add this to the CV, but obviously there’s a lot of work to do once we get out there.”
▲ Gatland said Jones, who embarks on a fourth successive Lions tour, has the drive required to beat the Springboks will never settle for second best.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with him for a number of years. He was the only player in the Welsh squad who was there before me, so he’s had a huge amount of experience,” he said.
“I think the last few years he’s done an incredible job in terms of leading Wales. He has captained a Lions team in the third Test in 2013, which was a pretty good performance.
“For me, picking someone who comes from a team that’s won the Six Nations, who has respect, has been there and done that … it was a relatively easy decision.”
But like Gatland, Jones is not a man who rests on his laurels.
“You certainly don’t achieve the numbers he has over his 15-year international career without possessing a relentless thirst to improve, a refusal to ever settle for second best,” the coach said.
“Not only does he hold the all-time record of 157 Test appearances, including those nine caps for the Lions, Jones has won Six Nations titles with Wales in three different decades.”
The 2008 title provided his first, 2012, 2013 and 2019 comprised a 2010s triple-header and this year ensured the 2020s are now ticked off. Three of those were also Grand Slams.
Yet while Jones’ achievements speak for themselves, Gatland has made it clear to his skipper that he will have to fight for his Test place – a challenge he accepted without question.
“When I rang him and asked him, he was pretty honoured to be able to accept it,” Gatland added.