Jenkins hails Jones as a giant among legends

Wales have produced many great rugby players but former outside-half Neil Jenkins reckons current captain Alun Wyn Jones deserves to rank alongside the very best.

TOKYO, 23 Oct - There are plenty of candidates who can lay claim to the title of Wales's greatest player.

Scrum-half supreme Gareth Edwards, seen below scoring one of the most famous tries in rugby history for the Barbarians against New Zealand in 1973, or warrior full-back JPR Williams would be two. Then there is Barry John, who was known as 'The King’, and widely regarded as one of the best fly-halves the world has seen.

But former No.10 Neil Jenkins, now Wales’s skills coach, believes current captain Alun Wyn Jones deserves to rated as highly as those Welsh legends.

The second-row will play for his country for the 133rd time in Sunday's World Cup semi-final against South Africa in Yokohama. When you add the nine caps he has won for the British & Irish Lions, including the one against New Zealand in Auckland in 2017, below, he is level with Italy's Sergio Parisse on 142 caps. Only New Zealand's Richie McCaw, with 148, is ahead of him.

"Wales have had some incredible rugby players and he is up there as one of the best, if not the best," said Jenkins. "When you think we have had some great players, that speaks volumes. He is an incredible athlete.

"His long career is an unbelievable achievement, especially where he plays. Second-row is one of the hardest positions in the game.

"I don’t know a 99 per cent AWJ, I only know a 100 per cent AWJ. It’s 100 per cent or nothing, plain and simple.  He is exceptional at what he does, an incredible player, an incredible leader.

"I was lucky enough to be involved with Alun Wyn in the Six Nations Under-21s back in 2006 in Ireland. He has always wanted to be the best and over a long period he has achieved that. He seems to get better with age.

"You could see then he was a pretty special player, but you probably didn’t think he was going to be as special as he actually is.

"Whatever plaudits and accolades come his way, he deserves it. He leads from the front with his actions and he talks incredibly well as well."

Jones is competing in his fourth World Cup, having led Wales to the Grand Slam this year as he battled through the pain barrier. The 34-year-old has been a stalwart in the second-row but does not relish praise being heaped on him, preferring to lead by example.

"Mondays are the most interesting, those are the days when he is most grumpy," said Jenkins. "That’s Alun Wyn.

"He demands the best from himself and demands the best from the people around him. That shows in our environment and the way the boys go about their business. They have a leader they can look up to.

"He will be relishing Sunday."

Jenkins is hopeful centres Jonathan Davies - who missed the quarter-final win against France with a knee injury - and Hadleigh Parkes (shoulder) will be fit to face the Springboks.

"Jon trained most of the week last week but didn’t feel he was quite right. Jon is a world-class player and you need your world-class players fit. Hopefully, he will be available for selection.

"These games don’t come around very often. I think sometimes, even if your leg is hanging off, you need to strap it yourself to get yourself right. I am sure they will do that this week."

RNS ig/icr