Alun Wyn can be the greatest of them all
If you watched the Ospreys win against Zebre on Friday night you would have seen how reluctant Alun Wyn Jones was to accept the plaudits that came his way for taking over from Paul James as the most capped player in the region’s history.
It was game No.233 for Big Al and he deserved every clap and cheer that came his way.
It was less than a week on from his 120th cap for Wales, when he led his country to victory over the Springboks to complete a first clean-sweep of an Autumn Series. Surely he could have been given a week or two to put his feet up!
I’m sure Allen Clarke offered him that option, and that Warren Gatland might have suggested it, but Alun Wyn simply thrives on training and playing. So much so, that he completed the full 80 minutes while some of his international colleagues – Justin Tipuric, Nicky Smith and Adam Beard – were replaced before the end.
I won league titles, Grand Slams and British & Irish Lions Tests with the big man and he never ceased to amaze me with his commitment, dedication and energy. He is a human dynamo!
What you see on the pitch, an all-action, never take a backward step colossus, is exactly what we used to get in training at the Ospreys, Wales and Lions. Rugby is a simple equation for Alun Wyn, you train as you play and you play as you train ... hard and full throttle!
It was interesting to hear Adam Beard, right, the new kid on the block as far as Ospreys and Wales second rows are concerned, talking last week about how ferocious the physicality was against South Africa. The young man stood tall throughout the four games last month and is an obvious contender to try to fill Alun Wyn’s giant boots in the future.
He lasted 62 minutes on Friday night while the old warhorse ploughed on through the full 80.
And while it was 233 and counting for the Ospreys, the full mathematical equation of Alun Wyn’s stellar career makes even more impressive reading. Ospreys: 233 Wales: 120 Lions: 20 (9 Tests) Wales U21: 20 Swansea RFC: 35 Other: 1 (Probables v Possibles Wales Trial)
That makes 429 matches of senior rugby – and he is still only 33! In my eyes, he now ranks alongside the greatest of all UK and Ireland second rows and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Willie John McBride, Gordon Brown, Martin Johnson and Paul O’Connell. As far as Wales is concerned, he is undoubtedly the greatest forward to pull on the famous red jersey, surpassing the likes of Rhys Williams, Bryn Meredith, Graham Price, Geoff Wheel, Mervyn Davies, and two of his old Ospreys team mates, Adam Jones and Ryan Jones. Now he sits alongside Sir Gareth Edwards as the best of our best. Injuries permitting he will undoubtedly surpass Gethin Jenkins (129) as our most capped player next year and can go on to threaten Richie McCaw’s world cap record of 148. With his nine Lions Tests he is currently only 19 caps behind and Wales will play nine matches before next year’s World Cup and a minimum of four in Japan.
Willie John played his last international just short of his 35th birthday, Johnson was 33 and O’Connell was a week short of his 36th birthday. Brown was a mere baby at 29!
The thing about Alun Wyn is that if he continues to work as hard as he always has done in preparing himself for battle he should be able to go on for another two or three years at least.
Next year will be his fourth World Cup. I wouldn’t rule out a fifth. I just hope that Wales can continue their current run of form and extend the nine matches to a record 12 or more in the Six Nations to put another feather in his cap. Then it will be on to the World Cup and a shot at the ultimate glory.
“The big man never ceased to amaze me with his commitment, dedication and energy”
Captain colossus: Alun Wyn Jones celebrates victory with the trophy after the Test against South Africa