Ireland back row CJ Stander has revealed a quirky 2017 Lions story to highlight the ultra level of professionalism which has enabled Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones to become world rugby’s most capped Test player. 

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Jones played his 149th Test match last weekend, lining out for Wales in the defeat to Scotland. It wasn’t the result the lock would have wanted from a match which allowed him to overtake New Zealand’s Richie McCaw on the list of most-capped internationals. 

The outing was the 140th appearance by Jones for Wales which, added to his nine Lions Test games, pushed him past the McCaw benchmark. 

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But reflecting on the level of professionalism that has taken the 35-year-old to record Test level heights in the game, Stander recalled a story from the Lions tour to New Zealand in 2017 to illustrate why Jones is out there on his own in terms of caps.

Guest-starring on the latest episode of RugbyPass Offload with Dylan Hartley and Jamie Roberts, Stander was asked for a Jones story and he quickly chipped in: “I actually roomed with him for a week. I just remember my boots for some reason didn’t want to fit me. In the room I was, ‘Oh Alun Wyn, I’m struggling with these boots’.

“It’s probably not the best story but it shows you how professional he was. He had this massive bag in his luggage. He pulled it out. He had shoe stretchers – I had never seen them in my life. This man pulls them out of his bag as if it is nothing. That bag was a bag of tricks… it just showed the professionalism of the man. I had never seen a guy who brings shoe stretchers with him overseas. Well done.” 

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Explaining how they are used, Stander added: “You put them in and you turn them. You need to put them in hot water, put them in and then turn it. I used the thing for the whole tour and I actually broke one. He’s probably going to see this and go, ‘Well, you own me a beer’ but how unlucky mate, you’re never going to get them back.”

Ex-England skipper Hartley loved the insight. “Maybe that is the secret, the atomic habits, it’s the small things every day that he is doing, not the big things.”

Stander replied: “That’s probably a fair point. I never thought about that. I need to get myself a pair of those (shoe stretchers).”

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