By Steffan Thomas
Alun Wyn Jones can defy logic and figure in the next World Cup, according to his new Wales forwards coach.
But Jonathan Humphreys – one of the right-hand men to new Wales chief Wayne Pivac – insists Jones will also come under pressure from the next generation of Wales stars.
At the age of 34, the 134-times capped Wales international is approaching the end of a glittering career, but former Wales skipper Humphreys is confident he can coax a few more years from the Ospreys legend’s tank.
“He’s such an influence,” says Humphreys when asked about Jones.
“I think he can go through to the next World Cup. Within the Welsh system now, they are incredible at looking after players so there’s no reason why he can’t prolong his career.
“I first came across Alun Wyn Jones when he was 19 and I’ve seen him do some incredible things on a rugby pitch. When I talk to him I still reckon he can get better.
“Alun Wyn and Justin Tipuric have been the two stand-outs for me this season. They are two world class players and they have a huge influence on the game.
“I also think we’ve got some fantastic young talent coming through who will push the senior guys in the years to come.”
As a former front-row forward, ex-Scotland forwards coach Humphreys insists he will put a huge emphasis on improving Wales’ scrum. And he is particularly excited by the uncapped WillGriff John and Dragons tighthead Leon Brown.
He added: “I think Leon has done a great job in terms of the set-piece, especially. The Dragons have done a great job in helping him scrummage straight and he’s an athlete.
“He’s got a huge future in front of him. It’s about working on it day-in, day-out and that’s what he’s done.
“I went to see WillGriff John against Wasps and I was delighted to see what he does at the set-piece. It was great. We went up a couple of weeks later to have a coffee with him and talk about the game.
“There were some areas we wanted him to work on outside the set-piece and he’s certainly done that. We all know his background as a back-rower and he’s worked hard on what he can do outside the scrum.
“He’s come through a different way to most players. He’s gone through a lot of hurt to get there and he’s duly rewarded by being in the squad.
“The thing for us, and the non-negotiable for us, is we want our tight-heads to scrummage straight and square. These boys – Dillon Lewis, WillGriff, Leon and Samson Lee, who is just behind – are working extremely hard to be able to do that and hopefully that’s going to be able to give us solidity and dominance in that area.”
Humphreys is also excited at the prospect of the returning Taulupe Faletau packing down at No.8, with the Bath player having recovered from injury.
“It will be like having a new player. I know he’s really excited at being back and we are really excited at having him back in our environment. He’s one of the top number eights in the world and a huge asset to us.”