Warren Gatland hails ‘incredibly special’ Alun Wyn Jones after Wales retirement

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Warren Gatland has hailed Alun Wyn Jones as “an incredibly special player” after world rugby’s most capped international announced his retirement from Test rugby.

The 37-year-old Ospreys lock played 158 times for Wales and made 12 British and Irish Lions Test appearances.

Wales flanker Justin Tipuric, who won 93 caps, had earlier announced on Friday that he would be stepping down from the international stage.

Wales boss Gatland said: “I would like to congratulate Al on a phenomenal international career.

“His leadership, dedication and determination are second to none, and he has been an incredibly special player for Wales over the past 17 years.

“Every single time he has taken to the training pitch or put on the red jersey in a Test match he has given his absolute all, setting standards and leading by example.

“Al’s passion and commitment for his country are limitless, and he has been an important pillar for the game in Wales.

“He and his family can be immensely proud of all he has achieved and in knowing he leaves a lasting legacy in Welsh rugby.”

Writing on his Instagram page, Jones said: “Having been selected in this year’s preliminary Rugby World Cup squad, and after ongoing dialogue with the coaching staff and WRU (Welsh Rugby Union), I have decided to step away from the international game.

Alun Wyn Jones
Alun Wyn Jones and Warren Gatland after Wales’ 2019 Six Nations title success (Simon Galloway/PA)

“A huge thank you to the staff and players who have been part of my journey. I wish you well for the future.

“To the supporters, thank you for the support and making the most special occasions even more memorable.

“To the people closest to me, my family, I couldn’t have done it without you.”

Jones, who made his Test debut in 2006, is regarded as one of Wales’ greatest-ever players.

Time and time again, he produced inspired displays for his country, with a stellar career harvesting multiple Six Nations titles, Grand Slam successes and World Cup appearances.

He also went on four Lions tours – in 2009, 2013, 2017 and 2021 – and skippered them in South Africa two years ago.

In a statement released by his agents WIN Sports Management, meanwhile, Tipuric said: “During the off-season I’ve had time to reflect on my playing career, and now seems the right time to step away from international rugby.

“It has been a privilege to put on the Welsh jersey and have so many great memories.

“I would like to thank all the players and coaches I’ve been fortunate enough to work with over the years, and the wonderful support I’ve received from the Welsh public.

“I am looking forward to spending more time at home and putting all my energies into playing for my home region the Ospreys.”

Tipuric’s decision comes just a month after his fellow Wales back-row forward Josh Navidi called time on his career, being forced into retirement because of a serious neck problem.

Tipuric, 33, was an integral figure in Wales teams for more than a decade, helping his country win four Six Nations titles, including two Grand Slams.

He was awarded his Wales debut by Gatland against Argentina 12 years ago and played in the 2015 and 2019 World Cups.

Tipuric also made one Test match appearance for the Lions on their 2013 tour to Australia.

Gatland added: “Justin has been an integral player in the Wales back-row since he made his debut back in 2011.

“He is quite quiet off the pitch, but his skill-set and his work-rate really set him apart from others.

“He doesn’t like a lot of fuss, but I would like to congratulate him on a great career. He has made an outstanding contribution to Welsh rugby.”

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