Lions captain Jones targeted by South African media as a 'pensioner' who needs a 'wheelchair'
Alun Wyn Jones has become the target of remarkable character assassination with the British and Irish Lions captain described as a pensioner who doesn’t deserve to be leading the most famous touring team in rugby to South Africa for the three Test series this summer.
Experienced local rugby journalist Mark Keohane has voiced a real dislike to the concept of Alun Wyn Jones as Lions captain and has taken to South African television and print to insist that England’s Maro Itoje should have been named captain and is the only member of the 37 tour party that would get into the Springboks XV.
He claims Jones will need a wheelchair to get past customs at Johannesburg airport and is predicting a 3-0 test series triumph for the Springboks claiming: “There are some players in this squad who are hobbits while Alun Wyn Jones is not in the top 10 of locks in the world.”
Warming to his theme Keohane wrote for IOL: “If the virtual Jones, the hologram, is something from the future, then Jones, the real thing, is something from a playing past that is far more glorious than the plodder who will lead the Lions into battle against the world champion Springboks.
“Jones, his 159 games making him the game’s most capped international, should be on pension. His Six Nations performances are overhyped. He was picked on past glories and because of familiarity, having played a decade of Test rugby for Wales under (Warren)Gatland.
“The rallying cry from within the Lions rugby fraternity is that Gatland is fighting fire with fire, bringing beasts to the Republic to conquer the world champion Springboks. But I disagree. Gatland has picked hobbits to be giant slayers and he has far too many Neville Nobodies in his squad of 37.”
Despite his stance, Keohane has respect for the Lions concept and even claims the test series is bigger than the World Cup which the Springboks hold after their 2019 triumph over England. “The Lions are the most precious occasion in world rugby. For me, the Lions are bigger than the World Cup because they only visit this country every 12 years and they play the Springboks in the best of three Tests. When it is over, there is no doubt as to who is the best. We saw that in 1997 and we saw that in 2009. Both series were thrillers.
“Appreciate the tour and bow to the occasion, but don’t put Captain Plod on a pedestal and don’t add to the delusion that this is a team of world-beaters. The famed Lions travelling red army won’t be in the trenches to help these ‘nearly men’ in red playing jerseys grow an extra arm and leg.
“The Lions are in for a whipping before the kick-off in the first Test against the Springboks. There is some class among the Lions, with England lock Maro Itoje, the only Lions player I’d pick in a Springboks starting XV. Itoje is arguably the best lock in the world, and what a statement it would have made to the majority of South Africans to have a black player lead the Lions in South Africa.
“It would have shattered any perceptions that the Lions are pasty lads from the smaller isles of Britain. We know they aren’t that and historically you only have to go back to 1974 to know that these lads can play and can physically front the biggest South African man mountain. But that was 1974.”
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