British and Irish Lions tour: Alun Wyn Jones plays down landmark

Alun Wyn Jones in action for the British and Irish Lions
Alun Wyn Jones has made 110 appearances for Wales
New Zealand v British and Irish Lions - third Test
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland Date: Saturday, 8 July Kick-off: 08:35 BST
Coverage: Follow the decisive third Test live on the BBC Sport website from 07:30 BST

Alun Wyn Jones doesn't do landmarks. Landmarks are for journalists and records for anoraks.

Players trade in wins, draws and defeats. Last week's match, and all the other many matches before it, are beyond control and not worth worrying about.

No, Alun Wyn Jones doesn't do landmarks. Which is a problem because the 31-year-old Wales second row keeps passing them.

When he steps out for the British and Irish Lions in Saturday's deciding match against the All Blacks in Auckland, Jones will be making his 119th appearance in a Test match.

The Ospreys captain will also become the first player to feature in every Test on three consecutive Lions tours since the game turned professional in 1995.

His part in the second Test victory in Wellington means he is one of an elite band of seven players who have been in winning Lions teams against New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

Jones retains his starting place in an unchanged side for the third Test match, the first time this has happened since 1993, partnering Maro Itoje in the scrum's engine room.

Asked if he'd ever contemplated playing nine consecutive Test for the Lions when he was a young player, the reply is classic AWJ.

"It's just another game," he says.

"So I won't worry. You're only as good as your next one, not your previous. So I'll focus on the next one and not the ones that have gone, to be honest."

Rob Howley and Alun Wyn Jones share a joke
Alun Wyn Jones was Wales captain under coach Rob Howley during the 2017 Six Nations

The coach's view

Jones' reluctance to blow his own trumpet means it's up to others who have been there and got the Lions tee-shirt to do the praising.

Current attack coach Rob Howley first toured in 1997 and and was first-choice scrum-half on the 2001 tour of Australia.

"Alun Wyn's achievement is very special," said Howley in Auckland on Friday.

"He joins a unique group of players, when you look at the likes of Mike Gibson, Willie John McBride and Gareth Edwards.

"For Alun Wyn to achieve what he has on the weekend, it's magic isn't it, it's quite unbelievable."

Graham Price
Graham Price played 41 times for Wales, winning Five Nations Grand Slams in 1976 and 1978

The record-holder's view

Former tight-head prop Graham Price is a Wales and Lions legend and was one third of the famous Pontypool front-row.

Like Jones, he played in every Test on three consecutive tours - 1977, 1980 and 1983 which were all four-Test series - and his 12 Lions Test appearances are the most by a Welshman.

His assessment of Jones' achievement is simple: "It's astonishing.

"The way you've got to look at it is Alun Wyn Jones would have played in every Test on every tour he's been on, which is a hell of an achievement.

"I did the same thing so I know what it took to get that - and I've got all the scars to prove it.

"What makes it so astonishing is that he's managed to keep motivating himself for all this time - and not just his motivation but his personal discipline and his appetite to maintain those standards.

Leading Lions Test cap holders
PlayerHome NationCaps
Willie John McBride, lock, 1962-1974Ireland17
Dickie Jeeps, scrum-half, 1955-1962England13
Mike Gibson, centre, 1966-1971Ireland12
Graham Price, prop, 1977-1983Wales12
Gareth Edwards, scrum-half, 1968-1974Wales10
Tony O'Reilly, wing, 1955-1959Ireland10
RH Williams, lock, 1955-1959Wales10

"It's astonishing really, particularly in the professional game where there are people coming through the ranks regularly trying to knock him off his perch.

Price believes it is a measure of the man the way Jones came back after failing to make an impact in the first Test on the current tour.

"He didn't go so well in the first Test and there's a great deal of competition for second-row places," added Price.

"Courtney Lawes and Iain Henderson staked a claim for the position, but Gatland justified his selection by saying Alun Wyn never plays two bad games in succession and he was right.

"He put in a terrific shift in the second Test.

"He's up there with the best Welsh locks in history."

Alun Wyn Jones
No quips, just business from Alun Wyn Jones at Lions media conference

A place in history beckons

A win in Auckland on Saturday would give all the Lions players legendary status, according to Price.

"It was no mean feat to beat the All Blacks at any time, let alone a series. They will be legends for years to come if they pull it off," he said.

"It would put them up with the 1971 Lions."

Not that Jones will be thinking about emulating the team of John Dawes and Carwyn James of '71 - so far the only Lions to win a series in New Zealand.

His focus is the next game in isolation.

The chance to reminisce will come later, when the boots are hung up and the scores and team lists written into the record books.

And as for social media talk claiming he was fortunate to retain his place in the second row, well he has a rare moment of brevity for that suggestion.

"That's anti-social media," he jokes.

"It's not about pleasing people, it's about winning Test matches."

Which, ironically, would please the British and Irish contingent no end on Saturday.

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