Rugby players can’t go on forever, although Alun Wyn Jones is giving it a try! At 36, it would be wrong of Wales not to consider the country’s future without their influential captain. Rugby is an attritional sport that takes its toll on players’ bodies.
The Lions’ Lazarus
Alun Wyn Jones went from a Tour-ending injury to a 10th consecutive Lions Test start in under 4 weeks 🤯
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) July 22, 2021
The introductions of Ben Carter and Christ Tshiunza by Wayne Pivac signal the coach’s intentions. After all, he does want athletes with the same longevity. However, the New Zealander may be jumping the gun a little if he thinks that Wyn Jones is ready to bow out gracefully.
Plenty Left to Prove
They are his own words after collecting an OBE from the Duke of Cambridge to celebrate his achievements. But while he’s loved and respected, he and the team haven’t grabbed the public’s attention the same way, which is reflected in the winner odds on the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2021 award. It’s a tough category to win, yet Wyn Jones is currently a 150/1 rank outsider, with Emma Raducanu leading the betting at 1/20.
Earlier in the year, the Welshman was in the running. For instance, his odds were slashed from 50/1 to 16/1 after Wales claimed the Six Nations. With a Lions tour of South Africa ahead, there was plenty left in the tank for Wyn Jones’ Sports Personality bid. Unfortunately, losing 2-1 to South Africa and struggling against the All Blacks – Wyn Jones is also injured – means there is unfinished business.
It would be wrong to rule out Alun Wyn Jones since he has returned from adversity so many times. With the fire in his belly and experience of leadership, he should continue to be the first name on the team sheet.
Done It Before
Wyn Jones has done a lot before, including putting in incredible performances for his country that have resulted in major tournament victories. The problem at 36 years old is his body’s ability to bounce back from an injury. Sadly, it looks as if he’ll be out for months after suffering a knock to the shoulder against New Zealand in the Autumn Tests.
Weirdly, the type of injury highlights why Pivac doesn’t need a replacement for his captain. After dislocating his shoulder against Japan before the Lions tour of South Africa, Wyn Jones was ruled out of the competition. However, 18 days later, he made a miraculous recovery to lead the guys out. Yes, the Lions lost eventually, but Wyn Jones’ performances were of the same high standard as usual.
So, not only is it likely that he will recovery properly after his surgery, but he will also be a massive miss, and one that Wales can’t afford according to the bookies. To put it into perspective, Wales’ outright winner odds for the 2022 Six Nations with Wyn Jones missing have plummeted to 11/2.
Improvements in Average Age
To talk about a 36-year-old as if he’s a pensioner is wrong because he’s relatively young. Of course, playing professional rugby for two decades is punishing, which is why many expected Wyn Jones to have already retired. The good news for Wales fans is that he might have another four years left, according to average age data.
For his position, for example, the average age in 2017/18 was around 30 to 31. However, advancements in nutrition and sports performance since then will impact this figure. Plus, professionals from other sports showcase what can be done if players take care of their bodies, such as Cristiano Ronaldo.
Wyn Jones is a consummate pro, which is why he’s still the captain of Wales at a ripe old age for rugby. More than that, he’s integral to their World Cup hopes in 2023. Currently, the nation’s win odds are 16/1, but with Wyn Jones fully fit, the Welsh Dragons will undoubtedly be much more competitive.
The day will come when Alun Wyn Jones can no longer represent his country. That day looks like it’s a long way away, which is why Wayne Pivac should keep the lock in his plans for the foreseeable.
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