By David Williams
Warren Gatland has hailed Alun Wyn Jones as “an incredibly special player” following the decision of his former captain to retire from international rugby.
Jones and Justin Tipuric both chose Friday afternoon to announce the end of their time as Wales players just four months before the Rugby World Cup campaign begins.
Both players had been named in an extended 54-player training squad for the tournament by head coach Gatland earlier this month.
Jones, 37, is the most-capped player in international rugby – winning 158 caps for Wales and 12 with the British and Irish Lions.
The players’ decisions come less than four months before Wales’ World Cup opener against Fiji in Bordeaux.
Jones said in his statement on Instagram he had come to the decision after ongoing dialogue with the coaching staff and the WRU, which might be interpreted as an indication that perhaps he wasn’t part of Gatland’s eventual final World Cup plans.
“I would like to congratulate Al on a phenomenal international career,” Gatland said.
“His leadership, dedication and determination are second to none, and he has been an incredibly special player for Wales over the past 17 years.
“Every single time he has taken to the training pitch or put on the red jersey in a Test match he has given his absolute all, setting standards and leading by example.
“I am very fortunate to have been able to have worked with him with Wales and with the Lions.
“Al’s passion and commitment for his country are limitless, and he has been an important pillar for the game in Wales.
“He and his family can be immensely proud of all he has achieved and in knowing he leaves a lasting legacy in Welsh rugby.”
Tipuric said he wants to focus on playing for his region, the Ospreys, and spend more time now with his family.
Of Tipuric, Gatland added: “Justin has been an integral player in the Wales back-row since he made his debut back in 2011.
“He is quite quiet off the pitch, but his skill-set and his work-rate really set him apart from others.
“He doesn’t like a lot of fuss, but I would like to congratulate him on a great career. He has made an outstanding contribution to Welsh rugby.”
Jones’ international career began in 2006 and he first captained Wales in 2009. He became permanent skipper in 2017 and holds the Welsh record for most caps as captain with 52.
He led the team to the Six Nations Grand Slam in 2019 and was named player of the tournament that year. He won five Six Nations titles with Wales including three Grand Slams. He also featured in four World Cups for Wales in 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019.
Jones is one of only four players be selected to play on four British and Irish Lions tours. He captained the squad on the 2021 tour of South Africa, and was also captain for the 2013 series decider against Australia.
WRU interim CEO Nigel Walker said: “Alun has been the ultimate servant to Welsh rugby. A powerhouse in the pack his mobility around the field and his inspiring leadership both on and off the pitch has been second to none.
“His longevity is testament to his professionalism, passion and desire to represent his country.
“He is a unique and impressive individual, his record of achievements in the game stand for themselves and it will be a long time before we see his like again.
“He will be missed on the international stage by Welsh rugby supporters around the globe.
“He retires from international rugby having earned the respect of all those who have had the pleasure of seeing him play and he is a credit to the game.”
Tipuric made his Wales debut in 2011 and helped them win the Six Nations in 2012, 2013, 2019 and 2021.
He was also part of the Wales squads that reached the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals in 2015 and semi-finals in 2019.
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