Jones to lead British & Irish Lions

It has been confirmed that the British & Irish Lions will be captained by veteran Wales lock Alun Wyn Jones on the tour to South Africa.

Jones is the world’s most capped player with 157 Test appearances, and at the age of 35, he will become the oldest Lions captain in the professional era.

Having displayed decent form in the Six Nations as he led Wales to a famous title, Jones continues the trend of Lions teams to be skippered by second-row giants such as Paul O’Connell, Martin Johnson, Bill Beaumont and Willie John McBride.

South Africa will be his fourth Lions Tour in a row while he already has nine consecutive Test appearances to his name, a feat that hammers home his unparalleled longevity. But it will not be the first time Jones has led the Lions, with the towering lock captaining the tourists in the decisive third Test win in Sydney against the Wallabies in 2013.

And having driven Wales to their sixth Six Nations title since 2005 earlier this year, Gatland says the decision to name Jones as his skipper ‘relatively easy’.

‘I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with him for a number of years. He was the only player in the Welsh squad who was there before me, so he’s had a huge amount of experience,” he said.

‘I think the last few years he’s done an incredible job in terms of leading Wales. He has captained a Lions team in the third Test in 2013, which was a pretty good performance.

‘For me, picking someone who comes from a team that’s won the Six Nations, who has respect, has been there and done that, it was a relatively easy decision.

‘When I rang him and asked him, he was pretty honoured to be able to accept it. But there’s also the caveat and the conversation that, “Your form needs to be good enough to be selected in the Test side” and there’s no one better to have that conversation with than Alun Wyn.

‘He fully understands how much competition there is in that second row and that if someone is playing better than him, he could be on the bench or someone else might captain the Test series.

‘We’re going to need other leaders. We’re going to need someone else to captain games that he’s not involved in, but I think he thoroughly deserves it.

‘He’s a player that leads from the front, sets a great example in training, he has a huge amount of respect, he’s been there, done that – a world-record holder in terms of Test caps.

‘It’s great recognition for someone who is going to go on his fourth Lions Tour. He should be really proud of this selection.’

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Craig Lewis