Ex-Scotland international second row Jim Hamilton has called on Lions boss Warren Gatland not to let his heart rule his head when it comes to considering Alun Wyn Jones for selection on next year’s Lions tour to South Africa.
Gatland said last week that age was no barrier to tour selection even though Wales captain Jones, who last weekend became the world’s most-capped Test player of all time with 149 caps, will be 35 years and 308 days old when the first whistle sounds in next July’s Test series versus the Springboks, the current world champions.
However, after watching Jones fail to shine in Wales’ Six Nations defeat to Scotland last Saturday, Hamilton, an old second row rival of the Welsh skipper, believes that on current form the veteran does not deserve Lions selection.
In the eyes of Hamilton, Maro Itoje, James Ryan, Scott Cummings and Jonny Hill all merit Lions selection ahead of Jones, who guided Wales to a derisory fifth-place finish in the delayed Six Nations after they struggled to adjust to Wayne Pivac’s new regime since he succeeded Gatland after the 2019 World Cup.
Speaking on the latest episode of The Rugby Pod, Hamilton said: “So Alun Wyn Jones, 149 caps, what is the thinking in Wales now, what is the thinking around the Lions? Is Alun Wyn Jones going to go on the Lions tour because he is Alun Wyn Jones or is Alun Wyn Jones going to go on the Lions tour because he is the best of four second rows?
Episode 12 is here and ready to watch!
We dissect the final weekend of the Six Nations with an open cloth, Big Jim tackles another riddle and we raise question marks over the form of two Northern Hemisphere superstars
— The Rugby Pod (@TheRugbyPod) November 4, 2020
“A lot of people say he is going to go on the Lions tour. In my opinion, he is not in the best four second rows. I’d say Jonny Hill is playing better than him. Scott Cummings from Scotland. Across the board in terms of where we stand now is Alun Wyn Jones in the top four second rows? Maro. James Ryan for Ireland: now he is not in the form he was but in my opinion he is still playing better than Alun Wyn Jones. And what is better? It’s carrying the ball, it’s defensively, it’s lineout.
“There is no doubt about it, Alun Wyn Jones is still a fantastic player. Like he absolutely is… but I have named four second rows there, Maro Itoje, James Ryan, Jonny Hill and Scott Cummings. Is Alun Wyn Jones the fifth or sixth? This is up for debate.
“I know Alun Wyn Jones, you listen to him speak it’s not about amassing 150, 160 whatever caps he can potentially get to, but Wales are in transition. I’m not saying now is the time, it could be next year, but at what point do they say Alun Wyn Jones is going to need to make way because there needs to be an evolution for Wales and there needs to be a change of guard?
“Maybe it’s me because as a player there was no loyalty towards me… why is Alun Wyn Jones allowed to go on the Lions tour? Because he has been a phenomenal player. But if Alun Wyn Jones goes on the Lions tour he’s taking the place of a Scott Cummings or a Jonny Hill or someone who has never been on a Lions tour, or a Jonny Gray. It might be their only opportunity to go.”
Ex-England international Andy Goode, Hamilton’s show co-host, replied: “You have got to think about the coach, you have got to think about Warren Gatland, the experience that he has with Alun Wyn Jones, the detail that Alun Wyn Jones brings to his own performances, the homework he does off the field, the leadership.
“You are naming the top four second rows there now, you are naming Maro Itoje, James Ryan, Scott Cummings and Jonny Hill as the four best second rows in your opinion, Jim. You are taking three guys with limited experience. James Ryan has got a fair bit but Scott Cummings and Jonny Hill have got very limited international experience, so Alun Wyn Jones, if he is fit, if I had a mortgage, I’d put it on that he is going.”
Hamilton responded: “I agree with you. He will go and I understand the reasons why… but it comes down to taking the best (form) players. Warren Gatland speaks about winners – Wales are fifth. I don’t want to be horrible but they are not the team they were for whatever reason.
“It comes down to the romance side of it. Does Jonny Hill expect to go on the Lions? No, he doesn’t. He wants to go but does he expect to go? No. Does he think Alun Wyn Jones will go in front of him? Of course he does, he is Alun Wyn Jones.
“I’m talking about the simple facts of ability and wanting to win games. If you put Jonny Hill into the team ahead of Alun Wyn Jones, are they [the Lions] going to beat South Africa? I don’t know because Alun Wyn Jones plays a certain style that arguably would be good against South Africa.
“But I’m just talking about the romance of the game and the loyalties that lie with some players that don’t lie with others. Maybe there is a part of me that I feel burnt by that situation.”
It's shaping up be a Golden Oldies tour in South Africa ? https://t.co/VNfiN8Vf8b
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 28, 2020
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now