Alun Wyn Jones has completed his extraordinary recovery from a dislocated shoulder in time to reinforce the British and Irish Lions for their Test series against South Africa.
Jones sustained the injury against Japan at Murrayfield on June 26 and was quickly ruled out of the remainder of the tour, only to resume training with Wales this week in the hope of proving his fitness to Warren Gatland.
And having come through a double session at the Vale Resort on Tuesday, he has been given the all clear by medics to rejoin the Lions and will arrive at their base outside of Cape Town on Thursday.
Jones, Gatland’s original tour captain until his injury saw Conor Murray appointed as his replacement, now comes into contention for Saturday’s fixture against the Stormers at Cape Town Stadium.
“We are delighted to welcome Alun Wyn back. It’ll come as no surprise to anyone who knows him that since injuring his shoulder against Japan, he’s done everything he can to get himself back,” Gatland said.
“It’s remarkable really when you consider it’s just 18 days since he left us in Edinburgh.
“He’s been training with the Wales squad at the Vale of Glamorgan since last week and yesterday (Tuesday) he had a proper hit out.
“Following assessment from the medical staff this morning we’re satisfied he’s fit to return.
“He’s obviously raring to go and from what I’ve seen on video and the feedback we’ve received, he’s certainly not been holding himself back in training. He was really getting stuck in yesterday.
“It’s a massive boost for the Lions to welcome a player of Alun Wyn’s stature back.”
Jones’ potential comeback was described as a “miracle” by Gatland when he first raised the possibility just over two weeks ago that the Wales skipper could be reunited with the Lions.
At that stage it appeared highly unlikely that he would recover in time to play a role in the tour, yet he has defied the odds in what is a major lift for the expedition to South Africa.
Gatland revealed that Jones will not be considered for Saturday’s clash with the Stormers but insisted he could face the Springboks a week later.
“Alun feels like he’s back fully fit,” Gatland told Sky Sports
“So he arrives here tomorrow (Thursday) and will be training on Monday in contention potentially for Test selection. He won’t be considered for the Stormers game.”
Gatland confirmed that Jones is likely to take back the leadership duties from Murray when he comes into camp.
“We’ll have a conversation with Alun Wyn and Conor when Alun gets out here and talk about that,” Gatland said
“There’s a good chance that Alun will resume as tour captain and I think Conor will be pretty happy with that.
“None of us expected he would be able to make this recovery and come out. We’ll make the best decision for the squad.”