Alun Wyn Jones the pain-defying warrior needed for more Wales battles

first_imgShare on Pinterest Support The Guardian Read more The Wales captain had – like his head coach, Warren Gatland – just been part of a third grand slam, the one survivor from 2008. He did well to rise from his seat unaided after twisting his knee in the opening quarter and crying out in pain. Wales had just lost one of their four players who had been part of a grand slam, George North, and the departure of their leader would have been, even for a tightly knit team, difficult to absorb.No chance. Wales have become a mirror image of their defence coach, Shaun Edwards, who once played most of a Wembley final for Wigan with a broken cheekbone. “It’s only pain,” he said a few years ago. “Fight through it.” And Jones did, heading the charge, carrying the ball more than any other Wales player and making the most dominant tackles in the match.Jones then sat in front of the media with Gatland, two constants of the past 11 years who have not always had the easiest relationship. In his younger days Jones’s maverick tendencies conflicted with Gatland’s notion of team discipline, stronger together. He publicly upbraided the second‑row in 2010 after he was sent to the sin‑bin at Twickenham for tripping Dylan Hartley. Read more Ireland’s mainstays, the set pieces and their strength over the ball, were largely neutralised and they again struggled to improvise when chasing a game. Wales were 16-0 ahead at half‑time and comfortably held on.Only Italy scored fewer tries in the tournament than Wales, the two sides not to secure a try-bonus point. But Wales had the hardest defence to break down, the only side not to concede a try bonus point. When they repelled Ireland time and again, it was as if Edwards were standing alongside them, urging them to embrace the hurt.Jones was Edwards’s voice. When Wayne Pivac takes over from Gatland at the end of the year, his first job should be to persuade the team’s exemplar to stir himself for another Six Nations campaign and continue to defy pain and time. Gatland described the act, which turned the match England’s way, as stupid and threatened to drop Jones. Although Jones led the British & Irish Lions in the absence of the injured Sam Warburton in the deciding Test in Australia in 2013 and Gatland turned to him occasionally with Wales, it was Rob Howley – in 2017 when the head coach was on sabbatical – who made Jones the permanent captain, relegating Warburton to the ranks.“Alun Wyn has matured gracefully,” Gatland said. “In the early years he was a bit hot-headed and temperamental, the one starting the fights in training. He is in a really good place at the moment and he has done a fantastic job this year leading the team. He is pretty valuable.”To Hadleigh Parkes, Wales’s try scorer against Ireland, Jones will go down as “one of the greats”. Parkes said: “He’s a leader, the one you look to, the one who always steps up and puts in a performance. He is a very humble man as well, all about this team. He is really enjoying his footy and I think he probably wishes he was 21 again. He certainly runs around as if he is.” Topics Six Nations’ team of the tournament: Wales and England dominate best XV Wales rugby union team Six Nations … we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many new organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. 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Alun Wyn Jones battles through pain to lead Wales to Six Nations glory Read more The crowd had left the ground to continue the celebrations after Wales’s 25-7 grand slam win against the champions, Ireland. As staff started to clear the stands of the rubbish that had contained beer and burgers, Alun Wyn Jones sat on his own on a seat at the front near the tunnel, nursing a bottle of water and absorbing the moment as he breathed in the silence after two hours of unabated noise and emotion. Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook Ireland rugby union team Warren Gatland Since you’re here… features Share on Twitter No doubting that Warren Gatland’s Wales deserve their grand slam Rugby union Reuse this content Share via Email Jones is evidence that there is more than one way of being a team player, leading by the force of his personality. Under Gatland Wales have been the most successful side in the Six Nations, their 73% success record comparing with England’s 70 and Ireland’s 68. In the golden era between 1969 and 1980 Wales were at 77.7% and they then had a strong club base rather than four strapped regions. In the eight years before Gatland it was 40%.The Ireland game was a summary of the Gatland years. Wales kept it simple, rarely moving the ball wide and reducing one of Ireland’s most threatening players, Peter O’Mahony, to a spectator. The flanker, so influential in the November victory against New Zealand, made only one tackle as Wales targeted the ball‑carriers CJ Stander and Sean O’Brien. Six Nations 2019 Share on WhatsApp The Breakdown: sign up and get our weekly rugby union email. Share on Messengerlast_img read more