Alun Wyn can be the great­est of them all

The Rugby Paper - - Feature - SHANE WIL­LIAMS

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”

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

Cap­tain colos­sus: Alun Wyn Jones cel­e­brates vic­tory with the tro­phy af­ter the Test against South Africa

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