Alun Wyn Jones underwent two fitness tests before being allowed to join his teammates in South Africa. Reuters
Johannesburg: Original captain Alun Wyn Jones has been put back into shape after a shoulder injury and will join the British and Irish Lions in South Africa, the tourist management said on Wednesday.
The legendary Welsh lock was injured during a warm-up against Japan in Edinburgh on June 26 and has recovered remarkably quickly after being initially excluded from the eight-match visit.
Jones underwent two fitness tests in Wales on Tuesday before being given the green light to join 37 teammates in South Africa, who host the Lions every 12 years.
The 35-year-old second-row forward made a world record 157 international appearances – 148 for Wales since his 2006 debut and nine for the Lions.
Head coach Warren Gatland will take Jones into account in his Matchday 23 selection for the final pre-Test series game against the Stormers franchise in Cape Town on Saturday.
When Jones stepped down, Irish scrum-half Conor Murray took over as skipper and is set to make his first tour start against a South African A side from Springbok on Wednesday night.
“A few weeks ago we didn’t think it was an option,” Gatland said before the announcement. “He’s back in full training with Wales.
“He made a remarkable recovery. The assessment was that the injury was not as bad as they initially thought it would be.
Lions assistant coach and former Wales opening half Neil Jenkins said it was great the forward could make a fourth Lions tour after previously visiting South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
“It’s really positive and a boost for the team for someone of their experience and caliber to come back,” he said.
“Nothing is beyond Alum, there is no doubt about it. He is an incredible person and player, on and off the pitch. He is incredibly diligent and works extremely hard.
After taking on South Africa A, whose racing team includes nine members of the Springbok team that won the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, and the Stormers, the Tests countdown begins.
The first is in Cape Town on July 24 and the next two are scheduled for Johannesburg on July 31 and August 7. Everything will take place behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, Gatland predicted in a recent online press conference that all three games could be played in Cape Town due to a third wave of coronavirus in Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg. There have been 13 sets of tests between the Springboks and Lions since the first in 1891, with the hosts winning eight, the tourists four and one drawn.
Meanwhile, the British and Irish Lions have been reassured of their safety amid rising death tolls linked to looting and arson in South Africa, a tourist security official said on Wednesday.
As of Tuesday evening, the unrest had killed 72 people, the police saying that many deaths were the result of “jostling during incidents of looting of shops”.