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Sport The real Alun Wyn Jones, personal tales from the men who know Wales' record-breaking captain best

17:41  27 october  2020
17:41  27 october  2020 Source:   walesonline.co.uk

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Alun Wyn Jones will make rugby history this Saturday when he becomes the most-capped player of all time, surpassing All Blacks legend Richie McCaw.

When he leads Wales out against Scotland at Parc y Scarlets it will be his 149th Test appearance - his 140th for his country to go with nine for the Lions.

To mark his record-breaking occasion, here are the thoughts of some of the men who have known him best during his remarkable rugby journey.

THE FELLOW DEBUTANT: Ian Evans

When Alun Wyn won his very first cap - for Wales against Argentina in Puerto Madryn on June 11, 2006 - so did Ian Evans.

It was a particularly memorable debut for Evans, as he marked the occasion with a long range try, while it was an unusual one for Jones, who packed down in an unfamiliar blindside flanker berth.

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Something else sticks out in Evans’ mind about their experiences together that summer.

“After the tour, we went to Cancun in Mexico to let our hair down,” he recalls.

“One day we treated ourselves to a lobster meal and really tucked in.

“But what we didn’t realise is you pay for lobster by the weight of it out there. So when the bill came through, it was a bit of a shock.

“We only had a couple of dollars on us, so someone had to run back to the hotel to get some money. Given Alun Wyn played at 6 on tour, it was decided he was the fittest.

“I’ll always remember him running across the golfing green to get to the hotel. That was an interesting night.”

There were to be lots of memorable days together for the duo who were second row partners for a decade for the Ospreys and Wales, sharing in two Grand Slams.

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“We first played together for Wales U19s in the FIRA World Cup up in Scotland and then we played for the U21s when we won the Grand Slam in 2005,” said Evans.

“We pretty much started together for the Ospreys. We made our debuts for them in September 2005.

“He was a big unit back then. Physically, he was there and mentally he was definitely there. At a young age, you could see how professional he was and what he wanted to achieve out of the game.

“He ticks all the boxes as a second row. His all-round game is pretty phenomenal and I’ve never seen anyone with his fitness levels in the position.

“In some games, you would be into the last 10 or 15 minutes and you think to yourself ‘maybe he’s going here’.

“You think he has blown, but then he goes and does some phenomenal work around the park again. He’s got one heck of an engine. His game fitness is incredible. He won’t like me for saying it, but he’s a bit of a freak.”

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The 33-cap Evans, who is now 36, added: “We understood each other when we played together in the second row. We understood what we wanted from each other.

“It was a case of trying to help each other achieve what we wanted from game time. I felt at ease with him.

“It used to me in the middle and him in front. That was generally how it worked. Early on in his rugby, he was at the front of the lineout. He was the one doing the grunt and the unseen work. Traditionally you would have the bigger man at 4 and the athlete at 5.

“Since he’s moved to 5, you can see all the extra work he does. The fact he has been able to play both roles shows he’s pretty much the all round second row.

“He’s very demanding of himself and the team. He’s quite harsh on himself during training sessions.

“If he messed up, he would be the first one doing 10 press ups or something to punish himself.

“I know him pretty well. We have been on holidays together and had some good cracks.

“Even when he’s having an intense day, I can get a smile out of him!

“He is a top man. He has worked so hard and had a phenomenal career.”

THE FORMER COACH: Lyn Jones

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Lyn Jones was the man who brought Alun Wyn Jones through at the Ospreys and worked with him for the first three years of his career.

“I remember very clearly when I first came across him,” he said.

“Garin Jenkins was working with Swansea at the time and he brought him down to the Ospreys to train with the seniors at the end of the season.

“Apart from having long hair, he had a pair of white rugby boots on, at a time when it was black or nothing. Second rows wearing white rugby boots was quite unusual. That’s how he got the nickname Alun Gwyn Boots.

“We just gave him a bit of experience during the session. Paul James lifted him at a line out and he had a heck of a fright. He had never been up that high before. I just remember his arms flailing around. He was in a bit of distress, so we brought him down. He came down with his shorts up his backside!

“When he first played for us he was absolutely dreadful. He couldn’t tackle, he didn’t know where he was going. He just wasn’t ready for it and had to go back to Swansea. But he was there on the laptop every Monday morning after a Swansea match waiting and demanding feedback from me of his game.

“He came back into the fold about December 2005 when we played Bristol away and had a good game. He’d had about half a dozen outings for us before that, but hadn’t really played. Now he had arrived. He had to go back to go forward.

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“Alun learned a lot in that period, which stood him in good stead for the future, but it was just a matter of time before he came through.

“The thing that separates decent regional players from international players is speed and he had that. He had speed of thought and speed of leg. You could see that. He was getting to places quick and he was a big lad. He also had speed of learning as well in terms of taking things on board. You would tell him something one time and he would adjust his skill set accordingly.”

Jones, now head coach of Russia, remembers the young second row as being something of a ground-breaker.

“He was the first of the modern players where if he didn’t agree with the reasoning behind what a coach ws saying he would say so.

“He would say, ‘Ok, I heard you, but why?’. I learned not to say anything unless I knew exactly what I was talking about and why I was talking about it.

“He needs the reasoning behind decisions and I liked that in him. I felt it brought out the best in both of us.

“He brings constant high standards and that consistency is what a coach wants from a player. You know he is going to be putting in everything during training and in matches, every time.

“He’s up there with the likes of Shane Williams and Adam Jones in terms of people I have coached. I always found him as good as gold to work with.”

Jones concluded: “Is he the greatest Welsh second row? Of course he is, without a shadow of a doubt.

“You can debate players from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, but there’s no argument in my book. You just have to look at his constant high standards and high achievement. I think just about everybody would be comfortable to say Alun Wyn is the No 1 second row that has played for Wales.

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“It is nice to think I had a little bit of influence there while working with him. He came to me when he was 18 and I watched him go on to fulfil his ambitions. It’s no surprise to me that he has achieved what he has. He will leave the game in a better place than found it.”

THE PROPPING PAL: Adam Jones

Tighthead legend Adam Jones was a long-standing team-mate of Alun Wyn with the Ospreys, Wales and the Lions and they became close friends.

“My first memories of him are of this big lump of a bloke turning up at training,” recalls the 95-cap prop.

“From the outset, he was committed and keen in every session. He worked very hard and always gave 100 per cent.

“You could tell pretty early on he was destined for great things. He was a big guy and very committed and the next couple of years he grew in stature and became the first choice lock in Wales.

“When he first came on the scene, we weren’t particularly close, but as a prop you do become very pally with your second row. He is a good mate. I was best man at his wedding.

“I am proud and honoured to have played with him. He’s the best Wales lock for me. He is always a minimum of a seven in the papers. He’s never below that. There’s not many people like that. I’m talking club and country here. He’s the talisman of the team and just a fantastic player.

“He is a stroppy so and so, mind you! He’s incredibly intelligent for one thing. There is a lot going on in his head. He is his own guy and he can be pretty intense. He reminds me a bit of Colin Charvis when he does interviews.”

The 39-year-old Jones, now part of the coaching staff at Harlequins, adds: “We used to have a coffee club before games with myself and the likes of Paul James.

“We were the only ones that could take the mickey out of him. He’s probably mellowed a bit over the years, but he’s still very much his own man.

“One thing I actually enjoy about him is how stroppy he can be. I love him to bits and I wouldn’t change him.”

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THE MAN WHO WAS THERE AT THE START: Jonathan Thomas

Former back rower Thomas saw Jones start out as a teenager with Swansea and went on to play behind him countless times for the Ospreys and Wales.

“I have so much respect for him,” said the Worcester coach.

“He is a couple of years younger than me and I remember when he first arrived at Swansea. “We used to train on the Rec next to St Helens and he was this tall, cumbersome, overweight 17-year-old. The person he has become is through hard work.

“He has worked so hard, not only at his game but his physique. That’s enabled him to become the player he is. He deserves the highest praise for that.

Lee Byrne et al. playing football on a field: Alun Wyn Jones on his Test debut for Wales against Argentina in June 2006 © Huw Evans Agency,Cardiff Alun Wyn Jones on his Test debut for Wales against Argentina in June 2006

“He had that desire and little bit of anger inside him even as a teenager that he wanted to get stuck in. He remained the same as the years went on, setting the benchmark in training. He’s just a really competitive person. When there were new locks coming through, he would want to beat them at every fitness test and in every race.

“What people see from Alun Wyn on match day is desire, passion, intensity and all that. But he is that every day.

“When he’s in a rugby environment, whether it’s in a team meeting or on the training pitch or even playing touch rugby as a mess around, he’s still got that intensity about him.”

The 67-cap Thomas added: “He’s a great man to have around you.

“You need people in teams that you know you can rely on week in week out. Alun is one of those. If you are next to him, you know you can always rely on him. You always get a level of performance from him. He’s not a yo-yo player. He’s solid every week. And he cares so much. That is why he is such a great player.

“Then away from the rugby environment and away from the media, he is very softly spoken and quiet, a mild natured kind of guy, almost an introverted character. He is almost two different people there.”

Captain Marvel star Brie Larson opens up about 'struggling with feeling ugly' .
The actress hopes to inspire people to feel comfortable with themselves. Speaking to W Magazine, the actress and director said: "I don't believe that there is a beauty standard. I struggled with feeling ugly and like an outcast for so much of my life. And so I really, really feel for that. "It took me a long time to be able to be totally comfortable with myself. The thing that has brought me solace is knowing that I can be whoever I want to be with myself. What breaks my heart is to think of people in the world who don't feel that they have safety within their own bodies.

usr: 1
This is interesting!