Alun Wyn Jones set for landmark appearance in Wales’ game with Scotland
Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones will equal the world record for most international rugby union appearances in Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash against Scotland.
The 34-year-old’s 148th Test, a tally that includes nine for the British and Irish Lions, matches the figure set by New Zealand’s World Cup-winning captain Richie McCaw between 2001 and 2015.
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac paid tribute to his skipper, saying: “Alun Wyn is one of the most iconic figures in the game, he is our leader and I am delighted for him as he continues to set the bar across the game.”
Pivac has made four changes to the team beaten 33-30 by England last weekend, calling up uncapped Sale Sharks prop WillGriff John, fellow front-rower Wyn Jones, lock Cory Hill and scrum-half Rhys Webb.
Hill, who makes his first Wales start since February last year, replaces Jake Ball after he suffered a shoulder injury in the England game and faces up to three months on the sidelines.
John, meanwhile, takes over from Dillon Lewis, Jones is in for Rob Evans and Webb is preferred to Tomos Williams.
Webb was unavailable for his country during his time with French club Toulon because he did not meet the Welsh Rugby Union’s minimum 60-cap eligibility rule for players plying their trade outside Wales.
He has not started a Test since November 2017, but after signing to rejoin the Ospreys next term he then gained a dispensation period to be available for the Six Nations and appeared off the bench against Italy and England.
John, meanwhile, is rewarded for consistent club form in the Gallagher Premiership, where he has helped Sale establish themselves as major title play-off contenders.
This season’s Six Nations will be adjourned after events in Cardiff due to the coronavirus outbreak, with three games outstanding – Ireland’s fixtures against Italy and France, plus England’s trip to Rome.
Wales will aim to avoid a fourth successive Six Nations defeat, which they have not experienced since 2007, following losses to Ireland, France and England.
Scotland, though, last won in the Welsh capital 18 years ago, suffering eight Six Nations reversals on the bounce.
Pivac added: “Saturday is a great opportunity for us to wrap up the campaign with a big performance at home in Cardiff.
“We want to finish with the performance we know we can deliver and we have been working hard to get there.”
Pivac, speaking at his post-match press conference, criticised England prop Joe Marler for his actions at Twickenham.
Marler grabbed Wales captain Jones by the groin and, although the incident went unpunished at the time, he faces a Six Nations disciplinary hearing in Dublin on Thursday.
“There’s no place for it in the game whether it’s banter or more serious,” Pivac said.
“We’re all role models for the next generation of players. There are rules in the game and you can’t go outside those rules.
“Alun Wyn’s frustration wasn’t with any organisation, it was the fact the matter wasn’t dealt with on the field at the time
“The processes will take their due course. He was just frustrated that any sanction later on doesn’t change the game.
“What’s the sanction during the game? It could have been a red card, a different Test match and we’d be alive in the competition.
“Thousands of people saw the event at the time, barring the people who were looking at the video.”
On the threat of the game being postponed because of the spread of coronavirus, Pivac said Wales were preparing as normal.
“Our team manager is looking after the off-field scenario and dealing with our chief executive,” he said.
“We’re preparing for a game but we’re aware there are discussions going on at a higher level.
“There are people that make those decisions and we’ll follow those whichever way they go.”