Alun Wyn Jones will go down in rugby union historical past as an all-time nice of the sport.
The 37-year-old Ospreys lock has introduced his retirement from worldwide rugby after a profession that reaped a world report 170 Test match appearances – 158 for Wales and 12 for the British and Irish Lions.
His Wales odyssey spanned 17 years, whereas he captained his nation and the Lions.
And he’ll rightly be lauded in the identical revered firm as Welsh rugby legends akin to Sir Gareth Edwards, Barry John and JPR Williams.
Jones’ worldwide profession started 7,500 miles from residence on the sporting outpost of Estadio Raul Conti in Puerto Madryn, Patagonia.
Selected by new Wales coach Gareth Jenkins alongside James Hook, Richard Hibbard and Ian Evans amongst 4 debutants within the match-day 23 towards first Test opponents Argentina that June afternoon, a 20-year-old Jones began as blindside flanker.
Little may anybody have recognized that it could launch approaching twenty years in a Wales shirt.
He set a brand new nationwide cap report when he overtook former prop Gethin Jenkins through the 2019 World Cup.
And then he moved previous New Zealand World Cup-winning captain Richie McCaw’s mark of 148 caps, sustaining unbelievable consistency of efficiency in one of many sport’s hardest taking part in positions.
He helped Wales win 5 Six Nations titles, together with three Grand Slams, performed in 4 World Cups and helped Wales attain two World Cup semi-finals.
In the early phases of Jones’ Test profession, although, Wales had been inconsistent performers.
No larger an illustration of this got here on the 2007 World Cup, the place a dramatic pool stage defeat towards Fiji in Nantes meant an early exit and coach Jenkins shedding his job.
Warren Gatland’s appointment as Jenkins’ successor in early 2008 kick-started a spectacular change of fortunes, with gamers like Jones, Sam Warburton, Mike Phillips and Taulupe Faletau to the fore.
Wales reached the 2011 World Cup semi-finals earlier than having Warburton despatched off and shedding by some extent to France, had been quarter-finalists 4 years later after which semi-finalists once more in Japan in 2019. Jones made extra World Cup appearances than every other Welshman, proving a driving drive on the worldwide stage.
And his Lions chapter was equally as spectacular, with solely two gamers – Willie John McBride and Dickie Jeeps – taking part in in additional Tests than Jones did.
He was an ever-present in 4 Lions Test collection, with captaincy on the 2021 tour to South Africa fittingly rewarding his standing within the recreation. He additionally led the Lions to a Test series-clinching victory over Australia eight years earlier when Warburton was injured.
Given Jones’ health ranges, it could have been no shock to have see him being chosen for a fifth and last World Cup marketing campaign in France later this yr.
But he has determined to name it a day on rugby union’s greatest stage, and Wales – possibly even the world recreation – are unlikely to see his like once more.