Retired Scotland international Jim Hamilton has retracted his early November claim that veteran Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones doesn’t deserve to be selected by Warren Gatland on the 2021 Lions tour. Speaking 17 weeks ago in the wake of a derisory fifth-place finish in the delayed 2020 Six Nations after Wales struggled to adjust to Wayne Pivac’s new regime since succeeding Gatland following the 2019 World Cup, Hamilton suggested that Maro Itoje, James Ryan, Scott Cummings and Jonny Hill all merited Lions selection ahead of Jones.
“A lot of people say he is going to go on the Lions tour,” said Hamilton on The Rugby Pod November 4 show about Jones in the aftermath of the October 31 Scotland win over Wales at Llanelli in the rescheduled back match in last year’s Six Nations.
“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.”
Hamilton has now revisited his criticism on the latest episode of The Rugby Pod and taken back his suggestion that Jones was over the hill and shouldn’t feature on the next Lions tour. It comes in the wake of a startling Wales revival that has seen them defeat Ireland, Scotland and England during February to win the Triple Crown and set-up a Grand Slam bid in the coming weeks when they visit Italy and France.
Ex-Scotland lock Jim Hamilton doesn't hold back in outlining his current Lions pecking order at second row ? https://t.co/1p2aW49jhe
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 4, 2020
The ex-Scotland lock admitted he initially felt that recent red cards in favour of the Welsh and the refereeing controversies that gave them their disputed first-half tries versus England would take away from the merit of their recent rejuvenation. However, he now believes they are fully deserving of praise – especially veteran skipper Jones to whom he made an on-air apology.
“I was thinking if Wales win this game it has taken the shine off Wales winning this game (against England). Two red cards in the first two games for them and then these decisions. I know there was a tweet that came up on social media, is Jim going to apologise? I’m sorry, from the bottom of my heart. There is a couple of things. I’m pumped for rugby that Wales aren’t on the demise and aren’t on for a wooden spoon. And I’m embarrassed by some of my comments, I happy to say it.
“A load of them. Saying I think Wales, they’re down and out. Alun Wyn Jones isn’t the player that he was. I thought he was brilliant. I don’t think he was as good as Maro. I know Maro gave away ten penalties or whatever it was, five penalties at the weekend, but that is what it is. We have got an opinion and our opinion is not always right.
“From a Welsh perspective and watching Wayne Pivac’s body language from the first week in the Six Nations, you can visibly see in his eyes, because that is all we could see, the pressure to the emotion of game three against England at the weekend, you can’t not be happy for him.
“For whatever reason, and I for one had written Wales off – I don’t know why, I’ve only ever beaten them once – and when it matters, when it really, really, really matters they turn up. A Lions year, Gatland is in the crowd wearing his mask, absolutely loving it, playing against England, everyone is thinking England are going to beat them.
“Alun Wyn Jones, captain, I’ve questioned him, is he good enough? George North, we spoke about him two years ago and I’m like, ‘I don’t think he is that good’. He was phenomenal at the weekend and then you add into the mix now they have got Louis Rees-Zammit, Josh Adams after Covid-gate comes in and plays the way that he has played. Fair, fair play to them.
“Another point we can talk about as well is the back row, Justin Tipuric doesn’t give away a penalty. He never gives away penalties and the way that he plays, so I go back to my point – from a Wales perspective, I am sorry. I will never, ever doubt you again until you drop Alun Wyn Jones and then you’re never going to win again because that guy is the in-form second row in the Six Nations.
“I can’t believe that somewhere I also said that the Wales-Italy game might be for the wooden spoon. There needs to be a forfeit for that. I’ve shaved my head, I don’t know what else to say but like Elton John said, I’m sorry.”
— Greg Stark (@GregEdinburgh) March 2, 2021
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now