Alun Wyn Jones will captain the British and Irish Lions just four weeks after dislocating his left shoulder as they take on South Africa in Saturday’s critical series opener in Cape Town.
The Wales skipper had been ruled out of the tour only to learn there was a way back from the injury, enabling him to show remarkable powers of recovery that have seen him dubbed ‘Lazarus’ by team-mates.
“The first few days after dislocating the shoulder 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,” Jones said.
“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 am 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 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 Warren Gatland, to make myself available for selection.
“I was fortunate enough to get some game time against the Stormers on Saturday and put myself in contention.
“To be sitting here now and to be involved in the Test team is everything I have ever worked for really over the last…I would be lying if I said it was two years, it is probably four years.
“Obviously when you finish a series or a tour you don’t know whether you are going to tour next and a lot of games go under the bridge.
“To be sitting here now is a very, very special thing, but it is only a very short step to what is going to be, hopefully, a very enjoyable week.”
Jones becomes the first player of the professional era to make 10 consecutive Test appearances for the Lions having also been capped on the 2009, 2013 and 2017 tours.
When Gatland was asked what that achievement means, he joked: “That he’s old! He’s been around a while!
“It’s a fantastic achievement for anyone playing your first Test match, but playing 10…. It’s fantastic. I think it shows who he is as a player.”
Now that Jones has completed a recovery described by Gatland as a “miracle”, he has one objective in his sights.
“We set out – and this is the message I gave to the squad back at the Lensbury in June – to win a Test series. I think we have a squad here capable of starting that ball rolling,” he said.
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