Alun-Wyn Jones not biting on possible Johnny Sexton injury
Experienced Wales captain and three-time Lion will be unfazed by Dublin showdown
Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton receives attention during the captain’s run at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Alun-Wyn Jones, the captain of Wales, has been around the block. Three Lions’ tours, Wales’ most capped forward and he’s listening to the story of Johnny Sexton sitting out part of the captain’s run, the outhalf taking back rubs.
Jones barely blinks.
“We’ve done our team run, they’ll have done theirs,” he says. “You forget sometimes the team run is a necessity rather than the core of your training week. We’ve had a lot of guys who have sat out in the past. It is not a focus for us. I’m sure they won’t be worried about it either.”
The lock knows all about Sexton. They have toured twice with the Lions. There is a sense he feels the focus on the outhalf is misplaced, that this game will be won along traditional lines.
“The right to play wide has been in vogue for how many years now?,” he says dismissively. “It’s ultimately who sticks to processes, gets the upper hand and out to the pretty boys out the back.”
He might add that targeting the outhalf is another of the enduring clichés alongside playing it out wide. What he won’t do is, with Wales outhalf Dan Biggar in mind, lionise the Irish pivot. Damn Sexton with faint praise, that’s all right.
“I played alongside Johnny on two Lions tours. He’s your typical 10, very demanding, knows what he wants and fiercely competitive.
“I think, no disrespect to Johnny, I think that’s a quality of all tens. The difference he has is that he has done it at the highest level and can repeat that . . .”
Joey Carbery, says the Welsh captain, is overall a bit more elusive and less more process driven than Sexton. Actually, who lines out for Ireland doesn’t matter to him.
His sangfroid has been earned. Wales’s record in Dublin has not been bad. The last match in 2016 was a 16-16 draw and Wales won the one before that, a World Cup warm-up in August 2015, 10-16.
Two years ago, though, is bah humbug. Things have moved along. Henshaw, O’Brien, Henderson, Heaslip, Furlong, Payne, Ringrose when fully fit and functional would be starting.
It doesn’t raise an eyebrow on Jones. Dublin. Aviva Stadium. Home fires burning and the scent of a Grand Slam is no distraction.
“Well it was England-Wales last week,” he says. “Is it any different? It is international Test rugby. Yes, it’s a different jersey.”
For Warren Gatland’s 100th Test match? There must be some emotional residue in that cold and calculating Welsh heart of his.
“Gat’s is pretty comfortable to play that down,” says the captain. “Everything he’s done has been for the team whether people have liked it or not liked it.
“We are not going to focus on the people who aren’t there. We’ll focus on the players who are there like [Andrew] Porter, [Dan] Leavy, James Ryan.
“We’ve done a bit of analysis. But as I say when you get an opportunity you play a bit stronger, try a bit harder. I’m sure those guys will do that.”