148 RICHIE McCAW 141 BRIAN O’DRISCOLL 139 GE­ORGE GRE­GAN 134 GETHIN JENk­INS 134 SER­GIO PARISSE 132 kEvEN MEALAMU 130 RO­NAN O’GARA 129 STEPHEN MOORE 127 vIC­TOR MATfIELD 126 ALUN WyN JONES

Rugby World - - WALES -

in 2006. He also brought the Mum­bles and Bony­maen shirts he had as a kid, a Swansea shirt from his first days in se­nior rugby and a Wales sup­porter’s jer­sey he wore in the stands when cheer­ing on his coun­try.

“The jer­seys I’ve brought with me were a pre­cur­sor to that (his pro­fes­sional ca­reer),” Jones ex­plains. “I sup­ported a club, played for a lo­cal club, had a Welsh jer­sey, sup­ported a re­gion, got a first cap and went on to be­come a fully-trained pro­fes­sional.”

He re­mem­bers go­ing to Wem­b­ley to see Scott Gibbs score the try that helped se­cure a fa­mous win over Eng­land in 1999, and be­ing in the crowd at St He­len’s watch­ing Swansea play with his U11s team-mates “in our track­suits, think­ing we were the kings!” He even re­calls a poster he had of Scott Quin­nell and Ieuan Evans pos­ing on a rocky out­crop in a new Wales strip.

Back then, he was the one look­ing up to those in­ter­na­tion­als, dream­ing of be­com­ing one. Now he’s the hero many young­sters want to em­u­late – and it will take some­one pretty spe­cial to achieve as much as AWJ has in his ca­reer.

What is most re­mark­able has been the con­sis­tency he has shown while play­ing at the top of the game for a dozen-plus years. Many play­ers suf­fer dips in form here and there, par­tic­u­larly given the sheer vol­ume of matches in­ter­na­tion­als play in the mod­ern game. But Jones’s high stan­dards rarely slip and, as for­mer Eng­land fly-half Stu­art Barnes ex­plains in the panel op­po­site, he has also de­vel­oped his game over that time too, adding more skills to his al­ready im­pres­sive skill-set.

This sea­son he is ben­e­fit­ing from a pro­longed sum­mer break, hav­ing been rested for Wales’ tour to the Amer­i­cas, and his game time is also be­ing man­aged by the Ospreys and the WRU given that this is the start of a big, and lengthy, cam­paign lead­ing up to the World Cup, with an­other sea­son be­yond that. His two tries against the Chee­tahs – as many as he scored in the Guin­ness Pro14 across the whole of last sea­son – would sug­gest he’s in good shape.

“This was an op­por­tu­nity to have a break in the right way and I made the most of it with my fam­ily,” says Jones, who wel­comed a sec­ond daugh­ter with wife An­wen ear­lier this year. “It was nice to have time off, es­pe­cially with a World Cup or Lions tour every two years and sum­mer tours in be­tween those. It was good to get phys­i­cally right and men­tally take a load off.”

Next month he is ex­pected to lead Wales out at the Prin­ci­pal­ity Sta­dium for a busy au­tumn se­ries, with Tests against Scot­land, Aus­tralia, Tonga and South Africa. With Sam War­bur­ton an­nounc­ing his re­tire­ment in July, Jones is the fron­trun­ner to cap­tain his coun­try through to next year’s World Cup. He is not one to look too far ahead, more of which shortly, but he is in­trigued by the op­por­tu­nity to play in Ja­pan.

“It’s a long way off but I’m ex­cited to see how Ja­pan host a World Cup,” he says. “With the en­ergy the coun­try has for any spec­ta­cle, it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how they take it on. It’s been great to go to World Cups in France, New Zealand and Eng­land, and while they’re cul­tur­ally dif­fer­ent, they’re all very sim­i­lar. You prob­a­bly couldn’t make Ja­pan more dif­fer­ent if you tried!”

Yet Jones won’t set RWC 2019 as a goal. He prefers to fo­cus on the process rather than the end re­sult, care­ful not to get caught look­ing too far ahead. It was sim­i­lar when he was near­ing his 100th Wales cap – he didn’t want to talk about it un­til he was ac­tu­ally at that point.

Ask if he’s con­tem­plated pass­ing Richie McCaw’s caps record of 148 – cer­tainly not be­yond him in the fi­nal years of his ca­reer given the num­ber of Tests played these days, al­though Italy’s Ser­gio Parisse may get there first – and the an­swer is a de­fin­i­tive ‘no’.

“That’s a dan­ger­ous game to play, set­ting tar­gets. There are so many vari­ables out of your con­trol – form, fit­ness and things like that.”

As for what he wants to do post-rugby, he’s un­sure. He’s done work ex­pe­ri­ence

“It’s hard to eval­u­ate ev­ery­thing un­til we all play at the same time. It would be bet­ter for ev­ery­one”

Burst the bub­ble Wales beat Scot­land 34-7 in the Six Na­tions Wales kick off their Novem­ber se­ries against Scot­land – here are the key dates at the Prin­ci­pal­ity Sta­dium… Sat 3 Nov Wales v Scot­land (2.45pm) Sat 10 Nov Wales v Aus­tralia (5.20pm) Sat 17 Nov Wales v Tonga (2.30pm) Sat 24 Nov Wales v South Africa (5.20pm)

Brace your­self Scor­ing v Chee­tahs

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