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Alun Wyn Jones reveals the heart condition that ended his Wales career

By Josh Raisey
Wales player Alun Wyn Jones leaves the field after being replaced on his 150th cap during the Six Nations Rugby match between Wales and Italy at Principality Stadium on March 19, 2022 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Recently retired Wales great Alun Wyn Jones has revealed to The Telegraph that he underwent surgery in November for atrial fibrillation, a heart condition which causes an irregular heart rate.

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The 38-year-old played the final match of his record-breaking career last month for Toulon in the Top 14, but it was only when he was having his medical for the French giants in July that he found out that he had this heart condition.

“The cardiac doctor picked it up straight away. My heartbeat was like a galloping horse with six legs. It was all over the shop,” he said.

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Dricus Du Plessis on the heart of a South African | Big Jim Show | RPTV

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Dricus Du Plessis on the heart of a South African | Big Jim Show | RPTV

“The things that bring it on for someone my age is likely to be cardiovascular exercise and stress, it occurs in sports like rowing and endurance sports, but it was a shock because throughout my career I have always prided myself on my fitness.”

By then, the 170-cap international had already retired from Test rugby two months before having been told by Wales head coach Warren Gatland that he was not going to make the World Cup. But the diagnoses helped explain why his numbers had dropped during Wales’ initial training camp, which ultimately led to him failing to make his fifth World Cup.

He said: “I knew what was coming. They said my numbers were down.

“They wanted to do the right thing by naming me in the squad and then allowing me to retire on my terms. I understood why they were doing it that way, they tried to do the right thing, but I just wish they had told me earlier. I would have done everything in my power to put myself in contention to be selected for the World Cup. Now I know that because of my condition it is unlikely to have made any difference anyway.”

Despite the diagnosis and the risk, Jones decided to see out his short-term medical joker contract with Toulon saying it was something he “needed” to do. He finished his stint on the Cote d’Azur last month, captaining his side to a 30-27 win over ASM Clermont Auvergne and leaving the field to a standing ovation before having corrective surgery soon after. He explained the conversation he had with his wife prior to joining and his reasoning for playing on.

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“There was a risk,” he said. “But I was prepared to play for Toulon. Anwen [his wife] and I had a conversation as husband and wife and I said: ‘I have come this far, if I drop, at least I will be doing something I love’.

“It might seem a selfish decision given that I have three young daughters, but I needed to take the opportunity. It was only going to be for four months, and it gave me an opportunity to experience and get perspective on my career and life.”

Jones has now called for players to be regularly screened for heart conditions.

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2 Comments
D
Diarmid 181 days ago

170 caps. That is insane.

F
Franky 181 days ago

Say it with me:

“Safe and effective!”

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