Alun Wyn Jones: Five things to know about the retired Wales and British & Irish Lions legend

·5-min read
records Six Nations Following the announcement of his retirement, here are five things to know about Wales and British and Irish Lions legend Alun Wyn Jones. Credit: Alamy
records Six Nations Following the announcement of his retirement, here are five things to know about Wales and British and Irish Lions legend Alun Wyn Jones. Credit: Alamy

The most capped Test rugby player ever, a Wales great, a Six Nations winner, a British & Irish Lions legend, and that’s just scraping the surface of the incredible Alun Wyn Jones.

Jones enjoyed a wonderful career with Wales and the Lions before announcing his retirement from international rugby at 39, ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Planet Rugby pays tribute to the veteran with five facts about the lock.

Early life and family

Alun Wyn Jones was born in Swansea on September 19, 1985 to Ann Jones, a secondary teacher, and father, Tim Jones, a solicitor.

Jones has rugby coursing through his genes, as his father and grandfather both played for Swansea.

He grew up in Mumbles, initially playing football before switching to rugby whilst at primary school. He earned a partial scholarship at Llandovery College at 16 and joined the Ospreys Academy after school.

During his time in the academy, he studied part-time for a degree in law from Swansea University, graduating in 2010, and four years later, he was presented with an honorary degree from the same university.

Ospreys and Wales debuts

His first taste of international rugby came with the U18s, and he later completed a Grand Slam at the 2005 U21 Six Nations Championship.

Jones made his Ospreys debut on September 4, 2005, defeating Leinster 22-20. He made several appearances from the bench before earning his first start against Border Reivers later that month.

Test recognition would soon follow as he earned his first Test cap against Argentina at the age of 20, starting at flank in the 45-27 defeat. He would retain the position for the next two games but would play the rest of his Test career in the second-row.

His nickname and confusion over his name

The lock’s nickname, ‘Alun Gwyn Boots’, has stuck with him since his first training sessions with Ospreys. He explained that he got the name after he wore a pair of borrowed boots which were bright white and that white in Welsh is ‘gwyn’. Alternatively, fans often refer to him as ‘AWJ’ while many simply refer to him as ‘Al’.

His name has also caused much confusion over the years. He has often been incorrectly referred to as Wyn Jones, as his surname, and other times as Alun-Wyn, being hyphenated. To clarify, his first name is Alun Wyn, no hyphen, and his surname is Jones.

Milestone and record-breaking mares

While Jones has enjoyed an illustrious career breaking several records along the way, he must feel he is cursed when it comes to celebratory milestones.

We already mentioned that he lost his debut Test match to Argentina, and that is just the start.

He also lost his debut Six Nations match, going down 19-9 to Ireland in 2007 but did beat Canada 42-12 in his debut Rugby World Cup match later that year.

South Africa claimed a 26-21 victory over the British & Irish Lions when Jones made his debut in 2009, but he did win the first game he captained Wales that year, defeating Italy 20-15 in Rome, becoming the 126th player to be skipper of the country.

When he notched up his 50th appearance for Wales, the side fell to a 23-19 defeat to England at Twickenham ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

He did, however, win his first game as the British & Irish Lions Test captain, defeating Australia 41-16, but lost his last with the tourists captain to South Africa (19-16). That last game against South Africa was also the day he became the first player in the professional era to play in nine consecutive Tests for the Lions.

In 2016, he celebrated his 100th Wales cap and fell to a 39-21 defeat to the All Blacks, and when he broke Richie McCaw’s record of 145 internationals, Wales lost 14-10 to Scotland.

In 2022, he earned his 150th cap for his country, and it was another forgettable performance from Wales, who fell to a 21-22 loss to Italy, the Azzurri’s first Six Nations victory in seven years.

His final game for Wales, versus France during the 2023 Six Nations, resulted in a 41-28 defeat.

In hindsight, Jones won’t be too worried about those milestone games and will rather reflect on Six Nations Grand Slam wins in 2008, 2012 and 2019 and a title in 2013. He has also played in four World Cups – 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 – and four British & Irish Lions series – 2009, 2013, 2017 and 2021 – winning in Australia and drawing in New Zealand.

Alun Wyn Jones’ honour list

Three Ospreys titles (PRO12, Celtic League): 2006–07, 2009–10, 2011–12
Six Nations U20s Championship: 2005
Six Nations Championship: 2008, 2012, 2013, 2019, 2021
Grand Slam: 2008, 2012, 2019
Triple Crown: 2008, 2012, 2019, 2021
Doddie Weir Cup: 2018, 2019, 2021
Prince William Cup: 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018
British & Irish Lions series win: 2013 v Australia
British & Irish Lions series draw: 2017 v New Zealand 
British & Irish Lions tourist: 2009, 2013, 2017, 2021
Officer of the Order of the British Empire: 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours
Six Nations Player of the Championship: 2019

READ MORE: Dan Biggar: ‘It was an unbelievable honour’ to play alongside Wales’ greats Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric

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