Alun Wyn Jones has been hailed for “a fabulous achievement” after earning another selection for Wales which will see him equal the world test match appearance record when he captains his country against France in Paris on Saturday.
The 35-year-old second-rower plays his 148th game for both Wales and the British and Irish Lions, matching the mark set by New Zealand’s double World Cup-winning skipper Richie McCaw.
Paying tribute to Jones, head coach Wayne Pivac said: “It is a fabulous achievement. He epitomises what a great rugby player is all about.
“He is a true professional on and off the field, and a gentleman of the game. On the field, he leads by example and you can’t ask more of your captain. We are very privileged here in Wales to have him.”
Wales’ first match for seven months sees a return for centre Jonathan Davies, who has not played test rugby since suffering a knee injury during the World Cup last year, while Pivac has also named uncapped Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit and Ospreys hooker Sam Parry among the replacements.
Wales play their delayed Guinness Six Nations game against Scotland next week, and Pivac will use the match at Stade de France as full-blown preparation for that encounter.
The side is packed with experience, including a 96th cap for wing George North, while scrum-half Rhys Webb edges out Gareth Davies to make a first Wales start in almost three years, and Dan Biggar wears the number 10 shirt.
In the pack, hooker Ryan Elias takes over from shoulder injury victim Ken Owens, with Cory Hill partnering Jones in the second row and Aaron Wainwright starting at blindside flanker in tandem with back-row colleagues Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau.
Pivac said: “The players are excited. It has been a long time and we can’t wait for Saturday.
“We have six matches this autumn, and the game against France helps us get back into our stride, international rugby-wise.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now