146 caps, fifteen years of service and one cheeky smile, Alun Wyn Jones has been the beating heart of Welsh rugby over the last decade. At 35 years of age, he boasts a wealth of experience and like a fine wine is only getting better with age, yet he does face a small hurdle to overcome at the end of this current tournament.
The Welsh captain’s current contract with the Welsh Rugby Union and Ospreys finishes at the end of the 2020-21 season. With Wales still on course for the Grand Slam following a scintillating start to the Six Nations, talks will now be held between Ospreys, his club side, and Jones after the final match against France on the 20th March.
"It's something we're delighted to entertain with Al, he wants to get the Six Nations out of the way," said Ospreys head coach Tony Booth.
"I'm sure those conversations are being had centrally with Wales, and we're inputting into that but we'll see where those conversations go after the Six Nations."
Leading from the front and playing some of his best rugby, there is little doubt we will get to see more of the Welsh great and in fact, the best may yet be to come this year. If his side beat Italy as expected, and then went on to beat France in Paris, they will have secured an unlikely Grand Slam title, and Jones will have played a key role.
Against England at the Principality Stadium last time out, the old head was tasked with getting the better of Billy Vunipola, one of England’s main forward threats. The number eight is key to England carrying the ball forward and Jones knew the importance of stopping him. Once he had put in a couple of crunching tackles, the rest of the team got the message. Stop him at the source.
A true captain in every sense of the word, when Jones does something, his teammates sit up and take notice. Sometimes, the best leadership abilities come in actions rather than words - a tackle here, a fierce stare there. Jones isn’t in the side to look pretty or play fancy rugby, he is there to win. He’ll rub opponents up the wrong way, is the master of slowing the game down when needed and is rarely flustered on the field.
Former England international Will Greenwood complimented him in the Daily Telegraph writing: “The bigger the game, the better the performance from Alun Wyn Jones. He was superb against England and at one point I even thought he was refereeing the game as well as playing in it!”
Here is where Jones’ career could take another upward turn. The British and Irish Lions will take on South Africa this summer and Jones, who became the only player in the professional era to play in nine consecutive Lions Test matches in 2017, is once again proving himself to be a serious contender for the captaincy.
He has achieved that feat once before, stepping up in place of the injured Sam Warburton v Australia in 2013, but how fitting it would be, on the back of a Grand Slam win, if he was selected as captain once more. Lifting the Six Nations trophy would be an incredibly proud moment, but Alun Wyn Jones wearing that Lions armband once again would be nothing short of what he deserves.