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Lions royalty give their verdict on return of Jones to the Lions

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Lions royalty Ian McGeechan and Sam Warburton have saluted the incredible comeback by Alun Wyn Jones from a tour-ending shoulder dislocation to getting cleared to fly to South Africa to rejoin the squad in the space of just 18 dramatic days. 

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Tour skipper Jones was ruled out of the trip to the home of the world champion Springboks when he suffered a shoulder dislocation when cleared out at a ruck at Murrayfield versus Japan on June 26. 

Warren Gatland didn’t take long after full-time in Edinburgh last month to confirm that the veteran Wales lock would miss the tour and it was quickly decided to call up fellow countryman Adam Beard as his second row replacement and give the captaincy to Ireland’s Conor Murray. 

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However, Gatland suggested on July 1 that Jones was targeting a miracle comeback and having been in training with Wales over the past week, he engaged on full contact on Tuesday and was subsequently passed fit to fly to Cape Town on Wednesday to link up with the Lions on Thursday ahead of next Saturday’s final preparation match versus the Stormers, a game Gatland has admitted Jones won’t be considered to play in.

Appearing on Sky Sports’ live TV coverage of Wednesday night’s match versus South Africa A, ex-Lions player and head coach McGeechan and 2013 and 2017 skipper Warburton believed that Jones rejoining the tour was a powerful statement.  

“A bit statement for confidence,” said McGeechan, the head coach when the Lions tour South Africa in 2009 and 1997 and a player on the 1974 tour. “He [Jones] is their natural leader and it was a blow when he wasn’t there. He has to be 100 per cent fit and involved and get him involved straight away, he will probably be there on Saturday. But from the whole perspective of the tour group, a very, very powerful statement.”

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“I’m not surprised about his return in the sense that he is the consummate professional,” added Warburton. “He will have gone above the call of duty to get himself ready. What surprised me was we were travelling home from the game where he got injured and within an hour it was announced he wasn’t going to go on tour. 

“I thought it was quite early because normally you would have an MRI scan the next day, the specialist gets back to you and tells you what is the problem so I can only imagine they prematurely ruled him out. He has gone and had an MRI scan back in Wales, they have looked at it and gone he actually hasn’t got the ligament damage that we presumed. 

“He is probably on a tight four-to-six-week schedule but given the unusual circumstances let’s try and put him to three weeks. That is how I imagine the conversation went. It’s brilliant news for the Lions, it’s great to have their natural leader back. We do need him.”

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Lions royalty give their verdict on return of Jones to the Lions

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