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Lions captain Jones reflects on remarkable turnaround

Alun Wyn Jones will captain the British & Irish Lions against South Africa in Saturday's first Test. Credit: INPHO

Lions captain Jones reflects on remarkable turnaround

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Alun Wyn Jones admitted his remarkable recovery and selection as British & Irish Lions captain for Saturday’s first Test with South Africa has been a very special moment for him.

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Jones, 35, was named as Lions tour skipper in May but suffered a dislocated shoulder in the team’s warm-up win over Japan in Edinburgh in June.

The injury initially ruled Jones out of the trip to the Rainbow Nation, but he has worked immensely hard to get back to full fitness and flew out to South Africa last week.

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He came off the bench in the second-half win over the DHL Stormers and has now been chosen to captain Warren Gatland’s Lions against the Springboks this weekend.

Asked to reflect on his remarkable turnaround from being injured against Japan, Jones said: “I think I was at home on the sofa before the guys had even got to the airport on the Sunday, so that was a tough one.

“I’d spent two weeks with the guys, getting to know people. We had bedded in on the rugby side.

“I had the seven minutes against Japan and then, for the next two days, that was my tour done.

“But fast forward then to the Tuesday when I had the decent news and was told there was a chance. It was bordering on surreal.

“There weren’t many thoughts I could probably share with you. It was a quick couple of phone calls to get all the apparatus I needed to start the recovery the next day.

“I made sure I didn’t dwell on the situation for too long.

“It was about being proactive, starting the recovery, and that’s what I did. I guess that’s why I’m here.

“Sometimes all you need is a chance and I was willing to work hard to make myself available for selection and make it difficult for Warren.

“It wasn’t just me. There was a lot of help back home. I have had a lot of support.

“A lot of planning was put in place with regards to the shoulder itself.”

Jones suffered a dislocated shoulder injury playing for the Lions against Japan but has made a remarkable recovery

Sometimes all you need is a chance and I was willing to work hard to make myself available for selection and make it difficult for Warren

Reflecting on the past week, Jones added: “It’s been pretty whistle-stop for me since I spoke to Warren and some of the management about being involved last Saturday literally off the plane.

“I was fortunate enough to get the game-time and put myself in contention. It is everything I’ve worked for over the last four years.

“To be sitting here now is a very, very special thing.

“To be here, taking the knocks and bumps and being in among the group, it means more. I’m not going to lie.”

Jones captains a Lions side for their first Test against South Africa that includes two other Welshmen in loosehead prop Wyn Jones and fly-half Dan Biggar.

Hooker Ken Owens and full-back Liam Williams are among the replacements.

Four-times tourist Jones will become the first player in the professional era to play 10 Lions Tests.

Jones proved his fitness for the Lions by training with Wales prior to heading to South Africa

It is everything I’ve worked for over the last four years. To be sitting here now is a very, very special thing.

On the challenge that’s now in store, Jones said: “I’m looking forward to it.

“The message I gave to the squad when we first met up in May was we’ve come to win a Test series.

“We have a squad and side capable of getting the ball rolling. You want to get out of the blocks.

“It’s our opportunity to do that on the weekend.

“We’ve seen the rugby we’ve been able to play and produce across the games leading up to this week. The big thing is going to be composure.

“We’re going to be in an arm wrestle and there is going to be territory battle. There is going to be a lot of emotion involved.”

Gatland hailed Jones’ recovery and said: “When the decision was made that we were going to go with Ali Price at nine, we felt we really needed Alun Wyn’s leadership and experience in terms of starting in the second row.

“That’s pretty important for us and it’s a great boost to the squad and everyone to have him back.

“It’s been a brilliant recovery by him to make himself available again.

“He had some time on the pitch the other day. It’s fantastic. He’s been around a while.

“It’s a fantastic achievement for anyone to play 10 Lions Tests.

“It shows what he’s been as a player.

“To see someone who was desperate to get back and rehab and be out here to represent the Lions again, it shows a lot about him as a person but also what the Lions means to Alun Wyn and to everybody.”

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