Warren Gatland hails ‘incredibly special’ Alun Wyn Jones after Wales retirement

By Sports Desk May 19, 2023

Warren Gatland has hailed Alun Wyn Jones as “an incredibly special player” after world rugby’s most capped international announced his retirement from Test rugby.

The 37-year-old Ospreys lock played 158 times for Wales and made 12 British and Irish Lions Test appearances.

Wales flanker Justin Tipuric, who won 93 caps, had earlier announced on Friday that he would be stepping down from the international stage.

The players’ decisions come less than four months before Wales’ World Cup opener against Fiji in Bordeaux, and both had recently been named in a 54-player preliminary training squad for the tournament by Gatland.

Wales boss Gatland said: “I would like to congratulate Al on a phenomenal international career.

“His leadership, dedication and determination are second to none, and he has been an incredibly special player for Wales over the past 17 years.

“Every single time he has taken to the training pitch or put on the red jersey in a Test match he has given his absolute all, setting standards and leading by example.

“I am very fortunate to have been able to have worked with him with Wales and with the Lions.

“Al’s passion and commitment for his country are limitless, and he has been an important pillar for the game in Wales.

“He and his family can be immensely proud of all he has achieved and in knowing he leaves a lasting legacy in Welsh rugby.”

Writing on his Instagram page, Jones said: “Having been selected in this year’s preliminary Rugby World Cup squad, and after ongoing dialogue with the coaching staff and WRU (Welsh Rugby Union), I have decided to step away from the international game.

“So, after 17 years, I look back on special memories with Welsh greats and future Welsh greats.

“A huge thank you to the staff and players who have been part of my journey. I wish you well for the future.

“To the supporters, thank you for the support and making the most special occasions even more memorable.

“To the people closest to me, my family, I couldn’t have done it without you.”

Jones, who made his Test debut in 2006, is regarded as one of Wales’ greatest-ever players.

Time and time again, he produced inspired displays for his country, with a stellar career harvesting multiple Six Nations titles, Grand Slam successes and World Cup appearances.

He also went on four Lions tours – in 2009, 2013, 2017 and 2021 – and skippered them in South Africa two years ago.

In a statement released by his agents WIN Sports Management, meanwhile, Tipuric said: “During the off-season I’ve had time to reflect on my playing career, and now seems the right time to step away from international rugby.

“It has been a privilege to put on the Welsh jersey and have so many great memories.

“I would like to thank all the players and coaches I’ve been fortunate enough to work with over the years, and the wonderful support I’ve received from the Welsh public.

“I am looking forward to spending more time at home and putting all my energies into playing for my home region the Ospreys.”

Tipuric’s decision comes just a month after his fellow Wales back-row forward Josh Navidi called time on his career, being forced into retirement because of a serious neck problem.

Tipuric, 33, was an integral figure in Wales teams for more than a decade, helping his country win four Six Nations titles, including two Grand Slams.

He was awarded his Wales debut by Gatland against Argentina 12 years ago and played in the 2015 and 2019 World Cups.

Tipuric also made one Test match appearance for the Lions on their 2013 tour to Australia.

Gatland added: “Justin has been an integral player in the Wales back-row since he made his debut back in 2011.

“He is quite quiet off the pitch, but his skill-set and his work-rate really set him apart from others.

“He doesn’t like a lot of fuss, but I would like to congratulate him on a great career. He has made an outstanding contribution to Welsh rugby.”

Related items

  • Andy Farrell hails Ireland’s resilience in thrilling win over South Africa Andy Farrell hails Ireland’s resilience in thrilling win over South Africa

    Andy Farrell hailed the mental strength of his players after Ireland propelled themselves to the cusp of the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals with a statement 13-8 success over South Africa.

    The world’s top-ranked team took control of Pool B by edging an epic contest on a raucous Paris evening thanks to Mack Hansen’s try plus five points from Johnny Sexton and a late Jack Crowley penalty.

    Reigning champions South Africa dominated the second half at Stade de France but Ireland doggedly held on to stretch their winning run to 16 matches and move within touching distance of the knockout stages.

    Asked what pleased him most about the performance, head coach Farrell said: “Our resilience, which has been really good of late anyway.

    “That was a proper game, a traditional game, it had absolutely everything, there were ebbs and flows, ups and downs and how we stayed on point mentally was fantastic.

    “The game was never going to be perfect.

    “First half, I thought we had the rub of the green as far as field positions is concerned and probably didn’t capitalise on that. Certainly it was roles reversed in the second half.

    “But we kept our heads. Getting those couple of penalties at the end when it really mattered is the big plus side of our performance.”

    Cheslin Kolbe’s second-half try and a Manie Libbok penalty kept the Springboks in contention before they fell agonisingly short in a nail-biting finale.

    Jacques Nienaber’s side ultimately paid the price for a series of wayward kicks at goal, with Faf de Klerk missing two penalties and Libbok squandering a further effort, in addition to the conversion attempt after Kolbe’s score.

    Ireland, who were vocally backed by an estimated 30,000 fans in the French capital, also survived a series of frustrating line-out losses.

    “I think as the competition goes on, we’ll need to be better because, you know, there’s a few inaccuracies,” continued Farrell.

    “But there’s always going to be that type of thing with games like this, especially with the pressure that South Africa put on you.

    “We again were able to find a way and when you say it was an emotional game and how do we bottle that, we’ve gotten very good at not getting too emotional, making sure that we stay on task.

    “So being given a game like that within the pool stage is great for us.”

    Ireland have a fortnight’s break before finishing the group against Scotland and emerged from a bruising encounter relatively unscathed in terms of injuries.

    South Africa head coach Nienaber conceded his side were second best but insists they can still retain the World Cup.

    The Springboks, who recovered from losing to New Zealand in their opening match at the 2019 tournament to claim the title, take on Tonga next weekend.

    Nienaber said: “Yeah, we can still (win the tournament). Obviously you have to (believe). We’re in this competition to win it.

    “Teams that lose a game in the pool stages must work hard to get out of the pool, so definitely we can still win it.

    “We played against the number one team in the world and we lost by five points and we had opportunity in the 79th minute to get a result.

    “Hats off to Ireland, they were better than us on the night and that is the bottom line

    “But that’s the number one team in the world and the margin is very small.

    “We will have to work harder at the stuff that we weren’t good at. If we can fix that and we have a little bit of luck, we can win the World Cup.

    “We missed a couple of points off the tee. I won’t say that was the reason solely for not getting over the line.”

  • Ireland secure brilliant victory over defending World Cup champions South Africa Ireland secure brilliant victory over defending World Cup champions South Africa

    Ireland propelled themselves to the cusp of the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals with a gripping 13-8 win over reigning champions South Africa on a raucous evening in Paris.

    Mack Hansen’s try and five points from Johnny Sexton helped settle a thrilling clash between international rugby’s top two teams at a sold-out Stade de France.

    Replacement fly-half Jack Crowley added a late penalty as Ireland stretched their winning run to 16 matches to take control of Pool B.

    Andy Farrell’s men also retained top spot in the global rankings ahead of the defeated Springboks, who now have work to do against Tonga next week to avoid early elimination.

    Cheslin Kolbe’s second-half try and a Manie Libbok penalty kept Jacques Nienaber’s side in contention before they ultimately fell short in a nail-biting finale.

    Pre-match talk was dominated by South Africa’s bold call to name an imposing seven-one split of forwards and backs on their bench – a decision head coach Nienaber called a “calculated risk”.

    Ireland impressively defused the so-called ‘Bomb Squad’ to bring the knock-out rounds within touching distance.

    Both sides arrived in the French capital with back-to-back wins on the board.

    An estimated 30,000 Irish fans were expected among a capacity crowd for one of the most eagerly-anticipated group-stage matches in World Cup history.

    That approximate figure seemed on the low side amid deafening noise in Saint-Denis further fuelled by a frenetic start of big hits and end-to-end action.

    Ireland initially began on the front foot but, following a bold decision to kick for the corner, failed to capitalise on a couple of promising line-outs before falling behind to a Libbok penalty.

    The set-piece struggles persisted and only some dogged defensive work, including Bundee Aki’s crucial tackle on Jesse Kriel, stifled the Springboks.

    Farrell’s men continued to show plenty of attacking enterprise and were rewarded in the 33rd minute when sustained pressure led to Hansen capping a sensational team move by crossing on the right.

    Captain Sexton calmly slotted the extras to ensure the Six Nations champions ended a breathless opening period of ferocious physicality 7-3 ahead.

    Ireland have had the upper hand in this fixture in recent times, including a 19-16 Dublin success in November, but South Africa – tournament winners in 1995, 2007 and 2019 – hold a vastly superior World Cup record.

    The unrelenting pace resumed following the interval and, amid further line-out issues, Ireland’s deficit was almost cut to a single point when Faf de Klerk’s penalty from halfway struck a post.

    Yet South Africa seized on the loose ball from that missed kick and penned back their opponents before Kolbe touched down on the left to put his side 8-7 in front.

    Fly-half Libbok was off target with the conversion and Ireland snatched back the lead going into the final 20 minutes thanks to a Sexton penalty.

    South Africa turned to their stacked bench, including introducing Jean Kleyn, who represented Ireland at the last World Cup, in a bid to make the difference.

    Irish indiscipline was in danger of proving expensive, with those in green relieved to see Libbok and then De Klerk squander further penalties.

    The Springboks enjoyed the better territory and possession in the second period.

    But Ireland, helped over the line by three points from Crowley, doggedly hung on to make a major statement moving towards their Pool B finale against Scotland in a fortnight’s time, while leaving the title holders with plenty to ponder.

  • Henry Arundell impresses his captain with five-star show as England rout Chile Henry Arundell impresses his captain with five-star show as England rout Chile

    Henry Arundell was praised by captain Owen Farrell for delivering a complete performance after the England wing starred in a 71-0 rout of Chile that offers clear sight of the World Cup quarter-finals.

    Arundell crossed five times at Stade Pierre-Mauroy to equal the record for the number of tries scored in a match by an Englishman and was duly recognised with the man of the match award.

    While the 20-year-old wing starred on his World Cup debut through his clinical finishing, it was the unseen, unglamorous work that caught Farrell’s eye.

    “Everybody knows what talent Henry’s got. He’s shown it before this game,” Farrell said.

    “He’s shown it for London Irish and he showed it when he got his first touch in international rugby against Australia last year.

    “A big thing that Henry showed against Chile was that he got after everything in between. He didn’t just finish tries. He got balls back in the air, he chased hard and worked hard for the team.

    “Ultimately, he got his rewards off the back of that. He does what he does unbelievably well.”

    England amassed 11 tries against the weakest team in Pool D as their attacking game exploded into life, inspired by Marcus Smith’s lively contribution in his first start at full-back.

    Smith scored two tries, including a superb solo effort, and provided a cutting edge to suggest he could be a long-term option in the position.

    “Marcus played really well. The decisions he made, he looked dangerous constantly, as he normally does,” Farrell said.

    “All I can say is I enjoyed it and I thought he played really well. George Ford added when he came on as well.”

    Smith’s performance was acclaimed by head coach Steve Borthwick, who brought on Ford for the last half hour as England closed out the game with three fly-halves on the field.

    Once the 24-year-old Smith had recovered from butchering two early chances, he dazzled Chile with his speed, footwork and creativity.

    “Marcus did a lot of very good things. Playing at 15, there is a different amount of space there compared to playing at 10,” Borthwick said.

    “The way Marcus took those opportunities, found the space and linked with Henry in particular was a positive. It shows there is a lot of hard work from everybody on the training field.

    “There was a lot of exciting talent on the pitch. This squad is packed full of talent and packed full of options. The starting configuration did a really good job after working through a challenging spell.

    “To be able to change that during the game and have Owen, George and Marcus on the pitch brought another dimension and certainly gives options for the future.”

    Chile captain Martin Sigren admitted his World Cup newcomers are a work in progress.

    “It’s a tough lesson. Four years ago we were getting the same result against Canada and the USA,” Sigren said.

    “We were losing games against Brazil. Four years later look at us – we’re here, so I have to hold on to that.

    “We will keep on working. Maybe four years later the results will be different.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.