Alun Wyn Jones walks off into the rugby sunset as not only a Welsh legend, but an all-time great of the sport. He joins company like Sir Gareth Edwards, Shane Williams and Phil Bennett as one of Wales greatest ever rugby players.
Impact of Alun Wyn Jones
With the turmoil that has currently engulfed Welsh Rugby, it is easy to forget how many successful Welsh teams Jones was a part of. Alun Wyn Jones was initially part of the 2008 Grand Slam winning Welsh side, missing two of those games due to injury but starting in the Grand Slam winning game in Cardiff.
He was once again the starter in Cardiff four years later as Wales claimed another Grand Slam. His absence in the first game of the 2013 tournament was a contributor to Wales losing that game, but they still went on to win another Six Nations trophy.
Likely the Six Nations campaign that Wyn Jones is most proud of would be 2019. He was the obvious choice to become Wales captain when Sam Warburton announced his retirement in 2018. It was not long until Wales returned to success under their new skipper.
The Welsh side of 2019 was certainly not the flashiest, in fact they scored the same amount of tries as Italy who finished last in the tournament. But the Welsh defence was built on the grit and determination of their leader Alun Wyn Jones. Wales put in gutsy performances to beat every team in the competition.
There were some incredibly hard fought games in there, having to make a late comeback against England being the main one. But Alun Wyn Jones was able to lead his side out in-front of the roaring Millennium Stadium crowd for another potential Grand Slam game. Wales blew away Ireland in front of the home crowd, with Ireland not scoring a single point until the 83rd minute, far too late for any sort of comeback.
Alun Wyn Jones was able to call himself a Grand Slam winning captain. But his performances on the pitch were also recognised as phenomenal as he was named Player of the tournament. He was once again a Six Nations winning captain two years later in 2021, not long after becoming the record international appearance maker.
He will also be remembered as one of the best British and Irish Lions of all time. Alun Wyn Jones is one of just four players to have been selected to go on four different Lions tours, making 12 appearances for the side. This puts him third all time for Lions appearances.
With his club side Ospreys, there likely has not been a better player. Alun Wyn Jones is already the team’s record appearance maker, ahead of names like Shane Williams, Justin Tipuric and Adam Jones. He is a three time Celtic League winner with the Ospreys, making him a Swansea legend.
Legacy of Alun Wyn Jones
When you can say that you have more international appearances than rugby icons like Richie McCaw, Sergio Parisse and Brian O’Driscoll, it shows that Alun Wyn Jones had some incredible longevity.
There is no doubt that Alun Wyn Jones will go down as a legend of Welsh Rugby, but at the moment his legacy is difficult to judge. Having been the captain of the Wales side through a torrid run the last couple of years, we have rarely seen the best of Alun Wyn Jones. The trouble at the WRU has put him in an incredibly difficult position as the leader of the Welsh side.
But through the pay disputes the players have had with the Union, Alun Wyn Jones has continued to be a leader, making sure to put his players first. There might not be a more respected man in rugby than Alun Wyn Jones for his exceptional work off the pitch.
On the pitch, Alun Wyn Jones will be remembered as one of the best and most consistent players Wales will ever see. Being a lock means you often don’t get the credit for doing the things in the description of the position. But if you look at the successful Welsh sides he was part of, they were built off a strong set piece game.
His work in the lineout and the scrum was always world class and there are few players who worked harder in defence than Alun Wyn Jones. It is difficult to judge his legacy right now, due to having only just retired. It will take a few years for us to look back and see the legacy of Alun Wyn Jones.
But he will undoubtably be seen as one of Wales best ever players as well as one of rugby’s greatest ever players. An exceptional leader who inspired his team on and off the pitch. His legacy will also be about moving on at the right time for himself. Over the last couple of years, Alun Wyn Jones position in the team has come under question.
While his performances have still been good, Wales have some exciting prospects coming through the ranks. Alun Wyn Jones steps aside now so Wales can likely start the Rugby World Cup later this year with Dafydd Jenkins and Adam Beard in the second row.
Many people, including myself, expected Alun Wyn Jones to finish his career at the end of the Rugby World Cup later this year. His retirement is a slight surprise, but also a sign of the changes needed in Welsh Rugby at the moment.
Alun Wyn Jones has had a phenomenal playing career and I hope that the last two years do not spoil his reputation. He should be remembered for his five Six Nations titles, three Grand Slam wins, as well as being part of Wales team’s that made it to the Rugby World Cup Semi-final in 2011 and 2019.
The four time Lions tourist is a pillar of Welsh rugby and should be remembered as an icon of the sport.