Jones: 'It’s Wayne’s World now'
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Warren Gatland has left a tremendous legacy however its time for new Wales coach Wayne Pivac to build on it says, captain Alun-Wyn Jones.
The 34-year-old, who became Wales’ most capped player last month, has been tipped as a possible Lions captain when Warren Gatland’s tourists take on South Africa in July 2021.
The Ospreys lock forward will be nearly 36 by then, but Jones’ performances at the recent World Cup in Japan, where Wales finished fourth, suggest that he remains at the peak of his powers.
“I am not going to lie, I am aware it’s there, but it’s a two-pronged answer,” Jones said after being named BBC Cymru Wales Sports Personality of the Year 2019. “You are never going to say never, but you don’t want to be too greedy as well.
“I am fully aware you have to be fit and playing well to be selected. If the planets align and I am potentially still there, then it’s somebody else’s decision. The losses still hurt but they inspire you to go on as well. It does spur you on and make you want to go again.”
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Jones, who has also been shortlisted for the BBC’s UK-wide Sports Personality of the Year award this weekend, has enjoyed a stellar 2019.
He was instrumental as Wales won the Grand Slam, claimed the top spot in the World Rugby rankings and reached the semi-finals of the World Cup.
Jones’ final game of the tournament – against New Zealand – saw him win his 134th Wales cap, which added to his nine Tests for the Lions and saw him surpass Italy’s Sergio Parisse to move to second in the world all-time caps list with 143.
Only Richie McCaw, who led the All Blacks to World Cup success in 2011 and 2015, has more caps to his name with 148. Jones could equal that mark in the 2020 Guinness Six Nations when Wales will be under the charge of new head coach Wayne Pivac.
Asked if he was excited by the new era, Jones said: “Massively so. “One of the highlights of the year was the Grand Slam, but you also look at the likes of Josh Adams, Aaron Wainwright, Tomos Williams and others.
“People have had opportunities and stood up. That’s probably as big as a Grand Slam and with a new coach, it’s exciting times. I’ve sat down with him (Pivac) on a few occasions.
“I was in for that Barbarians week on the three days that he wanted everyone in. I think there were a few raised eyebrows after the World Cup, but it was invaluable really as time is always precious.”
Jones missed the non-capped Test match victory over the Barbarians at the end of November with a groin injury that has sidelined him since the World Cup. But he hopes to return to action for the Ospreys over Christmas and build up his fitness before Wales’ Six Nations opener against Italy on February 1.
“We are carrying a bit of hurt from the World Cup,” Jones said. “I am on a personal level because we went out there believing we could win it.
“Having had the Sunday morning after Grand Slams and Championships and winning trophies you want that. Warren was honest, consistent and essentially really proud of what he did and what he created with Wales.
“The phrase has been coined that it’s Wayne’s World now. Wayne is going to do it in his way but carry on with some of the foundations that have been laid.”
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