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'When I was told there was a chance, it was bordering on the surreal' - AWJ

The Lions captain will start against the Springboks this weekend.

Jones made his comeback last weekend.
Jones made his comeback last weekend.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

VETERAN LOCK ALUN Wyn Jones says that captaining his side in Saturday’s first Test against the Springboks will mean even more to him after he feared his campaign had been ended by a shoulder injury.

Jones was initially ruled out of the Lions tour after suffering the injury in a clash with Japan in Edinburgh four weekends ago, with Conor Murray taking over as tour captain and Adam Beard being called up into Warren Gatland’s squad.

However, Jones has produced a remarkable recovery to be named to start in the second row against South Africa in the first Test this Saturday in Cape Town.

He played 26 minutes off the bench last weekend against the Stormers and is now ready to complete a sensational story by skippering Gatland’s team on what will be his 10th Test appearance for the Lions.

“I can’t swear on here so I won’t go into too much detail,” said Jones when asked what his initial feelings had been after the Japan game.

“The first few days after that and getting home, I was almost on the sofa before the guys had even got to the airport on the Monday. That was a tough one. Fast forward to the Tuesday when I was told there was a chance, it was bordering on the surreal.

“To be here now and taking the knocks and bumps and being in amongst it with the group, it means more, I’m not going to lie. I had spent two weeks with the guys getting to know people, we were bedding in with the rugby, I had the seven minutes [against Japan] and for those two days, that was my tour done.

“I had the decent news on the Tuesday and sometimes all you need is a chance and I was willing to work hard, and make it difficult for the guy sitting next to me [Gatland], to make myself available for selection.”

alun-wyn-jones Jones has completed a remarkable recovery. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Gatland said that the Lions had weighed up using Jones from the bench against in the first Test but revealed that as soon as they made a decision on their scrum-half, Jones had to start.

“We did discuss whether we started him on the bench again and brought him off but when the decision was made that we were going to go with Ali Price at nine, we felt we really needed his leadership and experience in terms of starting in the second row,” said Gatland.

“That’s pretty important for us. It’s a great boost to the squad.”

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Jones stated his confidence that his shoulder is capable of withstanding the obvious physicality the Lions will face on Saturday, paying tribute to the medial and conditioning staff in Wales and the Lions’ set-up for helping him to recover so quickly.

And the fourth-time tourist has belief that his team-mates won’t need any grand pre-match speeches to get them tuned up for this weekend.

“When you get to this level, and with the calibre of player we have, it doesn’t have to be over-complicated,” said Jones.

“You’ve seen the rugby we’ve been able to produce across the games this week. A big one is going to be composure, we’re going to be an arm wrestle. Gats has said there will be a territory battle. The basic messages are along those lines.

“There will be a lot of emotion involved anyway. The calibre of player and simplistic nature of that approach is what I’ve used in previous teams and with Wales in the past. I’ll continue in a similar vein.” 

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Murray Kinsella

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