South Africa held their nerve in a terrific tussle to win 23-18 against a Wales side who were left to bemoan the moment a pitch invader cost them a likely try.

On a wet evening at the Principality Stadium, this game remained on a knife-edge throughout, the only points coming from the boots of Dan Biggar, Handre Pollard and Frans Steyn until Malcolm Marx crossed the Welsh line seven minutes from the end.

Elton Jantjies booted a penalty with the last kick of the contest, resulting in the five-point winning margin.

Wales had been level at 15-15 in the 63rd minute when a spectator burst onto the pitch and got in the way just as a chance to break through the South Africa defence presented itself.

Liam Williams looked to have a near-enough clear run to the left corner, but the presence of the intruder, with security staff looking to grapple him away from the action, meant momentum went and the chance was lost.

This was a thundering clash throughout, South Africa handling the early threat posed by Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit, as Biggar and Pollard kept the scoreboard ticking along.

Both sides had a player yellow-carded for persistent team infringements before the break, with Ox Nche and Rhys Carre sent to the bin, and Wales led 12-9 at the break.

The hosts nudged 15-9 ahead but were pegged back to 15-15 as South Africa rallied after a penalty from within his own half by Steyn. Wales then moved in front again after Biggar's sixth penalty, which followed moments after the intruder was escorted away, with supporters in the stands directing their anger his way.

South Africa's Makazole Mapimpi sprinted through to dot down but a TMO review picked up an offence and chalked it off. There was no denying the Boks in the 73rd minute though, when they drove irresistibly over the Welsh line, Marx grounding the ball.

Jantjies, on for Pollard, missed the conversion attempt from close to the touchline, meaning South Africa were just two points clear, but Wales could not find a response.


Close... as it was bound to be

It is now the case that 13 of the last 15 meetings between these teams have been decided by single-figure margins, with 11 of those games seeing the sides separated by six points or fewer at the final whistle.

Friend or foe?

It was unclear how or why the intruder came to be on the pitch, but Wales had every cause to be furious about the fan's presence. There was no doubt he was a distraction just as Wales got themselves into a position to threaten the try-line. Had Wales got over at that stage, there might have been a very different outcome.

Defending champions Wales are set to be without captain Alun Wyn Jones for the Six Nations due to a shoulder injury.

Jones was ruled out of the remainder of the Autumn Nations Series, as he requires surgery due to the damage done in a crushing 54-16 defeat to New Zealand last weekend.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac does not expect the most capped player of all time to play any part when the holders bid to retain their Six Nations title next year.

Pivac said on Thursday: "I don't think he'll be available for the Six Nations.

"You learn a lot about the worth of people when they're not there. I think a lot of people take Alun Wyn for granted – he's always been there and got seniority.

"That leadership is really important. The essence is on others to step up and take that role on."

Jones, who astonishingly recovered from a shoulder injury to captain the British and Irish Lions in South Africa, is in the twilight of his career at the age of 35.

Pivac believes the inspirational towering lock, who won a world record 149th Wales cap in the loss to the All Blacks, can play in the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

"The intention is always to see if Al can get to the World Cup. I think it's a realistic goal personally," the New Zealander said.

"You've just got to see him in training and when he's playing, the efforts he puts in. I don't see anything going anywhere near backwards in terms of his performances.

"A bit of time off, we spoke about this before Al left camp. It's not ideal for him. We're all looking forward to him playing 150 Test matches for Wales, but that is still a goal and I'm sure he'll get there."

Pivac has made six changes to the starting XV for the showdown with South Africa at the Principality Stadium on Saturday, with Ellis Jenkins replacing Ross Moriarty (shoulder) in what will be his first Test for three years after recovering from a knee injury.

Dan Biggar returns at fly-half, while wing Louis Rees-Zammit, centre Nick Tompkins and prop Rhys Carre also start and Jonathan Davies takes over as captain.
 

Wales team: Johnny McNicholl, Louis Rees-Zammit, Jonathan Davies (captain), Nick Tompkins, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Tomos Williams; Rhys Carre, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Will Rowlands, Adam Beard, Ellis Jenkins, Taine Basham, Aaron Wainwright.

Replacements: Bradley Roberts, Wyn Jones, WillGriff John, Ben Carter, Seb Davies, Gareth Davies, Gareth Anscombe, Liam Williams.

Beauden Barrett bagged a pair of tries on his 100th Test appearance for New Zealand as the All Blacks swept away Wales 54-16 amid a deluge of late tries in Cardiff.

A week after they thrashed the United States 104-14 in Washington, New Zealand found greater resistance in the Welsh capital, but they eventually took the game away from their hosts, turning a spicy Autumn Nations Series contest into a drubbing.

Barrett took New Zealand beyond 50 points in the 79th minute with his second try of the match, and the visitors' seventh in total.

New Zealand raced into a fourth-minute lead, centurion Barrett intercepting a pass from Gareth Anscombe and charging through to score under the posts.

Try-scorer Barrett was spared a yellow card after a seemingly deliberate knock-on, before Wales lost Alun Wyn Jones to injury on the day the captain beat Richie McCaw's record tally of 148 caps for an international team. Jones suffered the upper-body blow when tackling Jordie Barrett.

New Zealand were well on top and had a second try in the 34th minute when scrum-half TJ Perenara scuttled in from close range. Prop Nepo Laulala was then only yellow-carded after making heavy contact with the head of Ross Moriarty in a tackle, perhaps a let-off for the tourists.

Kicking from Anscombe, Jordie Barrett and Rhys Priestland kept the scoreboard ticking along, before wing Will Jordan produced a thrilling third All Blacks try, chipping ahead and sprinting through to collect and dot down.

Johnny Williams thrilled the home crowd when he threw himself on Priestland's skidding kick behind the All Blacks defence, narrowing the gap to 28-16.

Then came the New Zealand surge, as Dalton Papalii exploited a gap in the Wales defence from a lineout to inflict more punishment, Sevu Reece exchanged passes on the left with Ardie Savea before dashing in, and Anton Lienert-Brown raced to the corner on the opposite flank.

Beauden Barrett had the final say, another interception seeing him gain possession on halfway, reading the pass from Johnny McNicholl and driving to the line.


Barrett times it to perfection

Moments after he was announced to the crowd as man of the match, Barrett turned on the afterburners for a second time. It was a fitting way for his match to end.

He told Amazon Prime it had been a demanding week, given the focus on him.

"I've spent a bit of time reminiscing this week and I've tried not to overdo it because we had a job in hand tonight and I wanted to focus on playing well," Barrett said. "Tonight, I'll enjoy my boys' company and thank all those people who have helped me along the journey."

Joy for Jordan

Jordan's try here was one even the most ardent Wales supporter must have admired. The decision to chip and the execution both smacked of a player with unwavering self-belief. Jordan has now scored 16 tries in Test rugby since his debut for New Zealand, twice as many as any other Tier 1 player in that period.

Alun Wyn Jones will surpass Richie McCaw's record tally of 148 caps for his country when Wales face New Zealand in a mouthwatering Autumn Nations Series clash on Saturday.

Wales captain Jones matched legendary former All Blacks captain McCaw's astonishing number of Test appearances when he faced Scotland last year.

The British and Irish Lions skipper will set a new record for games played for a country at Principality Stadium this weekend.

Jones, who has played in 12 Lions Tests, will lead out a Wales side that has a blend of experience and youth.

 

Taine Basham made his first start at international level in the back row and Gareth Anscombe makes his return at fly-half against his country of birth over two years after his last Test appearance.

Anscombe has impressed after spending such a long spell on the sidelines with a knee injury.

Ken Owens was initially selected at hooker, but has since been replaced by Ryan Elias due to a back injury, with Kirby Myhill named on the bench.

Hooker Elliot Dee has been released from the Six Nations champions' squad due to a neck injury.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac said: "To win a World Cup you have to play against teams like New Zealand at some stage in the tournament and you have to win those games.

"It’s going to be a great experience for those guys who haven't played a lot of test rugby and they'll certainly know they’ve been in a match afterwards."

Wales have won only three of 35 Tests against the All Blacks ahead of the showdown in Cardiff.

 

Wales: Johnny McNicholl, Owen Lane, Jonathan Davies, Johnny Williams, Josh Adams, Gareth Anscombe, Tomos Williams; Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Ross Moriarty, Taine Basham, Aaron Wainwright.

Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Rhys Carre, Dillon Lewis, Will Rowlands, Seb Davies, Gareth Davies, Rhys Priestland, Ben Thomas.

David Brooks is confident he will make a full recovery and return to playing after the Bournemouth and Wales midfielder was diagnosed with cancer.

Brooks was with the Wales squad last week but left international duty and underwent a medical examination, which found he has stage two Hodgkin lymphoma.

The 24-year-old will undergo treatment next week.

He said in a statement: "This is a very difficult message for me to write. 

"I have been diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin lymphoma and will begin a course of treatment next week.

"Although this has come as a shock to myself and my family, the prognosis is a positive one and I am confident that I will make a full recovery and be back playing as soon as possible. 

"I'd like to show my appreciation to the doctors, nurses, consultants and staff who have been treating me for their professionalism, warmth and understanding during this period.

"I want to thank everyone at the Football Association of Wales because without the swift attention of their medical team we may not have detected the illness.

"I'd also like to say thank you to AFC Bournemouth for all their support and assistance this past week.

"Although I appreciate that there will be media attention and interest, I would like to ask that my privacy is respected in the coming months and I will share updates on my progress when I am able to do so.

"In the meantime, thank you to everyone for their messages of support – it means so much and will continue to do so in the months ahead.

"I look forward to seeing you all again and playing the sport I love very soon."

Brooks joined Bournemouth from Sheffield United in 2018 and enjoyed an impressive first season with the club, scoring seven goals and assisting five in 33 games in all competitions.

Injuries limited Brooks the following year as Bournemouth were relegated, but he impressed again in the Championship, this time with 13 goal involvements across all competitions.

This term, he has three goals in nine matches.

Aaron Ramsey hinted at frustration with life at Juventus as he insisted his fitness is not a problem when he is "managed correctly".

The midfielder has only played four times under Massimiliano Allegri this season, last appearing as a second-half substitute in the 3-2 win over Sampdoria on September 26.

The Bianconeri said last week Ramsey was suffering from "muscle fatigue" and recent reports have indicated they are ready to listen to offers for the former Arsenal man, who joined the club in July 2019 on a contract reported to be worth upwards of €450,000 per week.

His time in Turin has been dogged by injury issues, though. Ramsey has only started 25 matches in Serie A, playing 2,238 minutes in total – just seven minutes more than Blaise Matuidi, who left for Inter Miami in August 2020.

However, the 30-year-old, who is set to captain Wales in Friday's World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic, suggested a different approach to his training and recovery could see Juve get more use out of him.

"I know what I can do and with the right management I can stay fit for a long period of time and play a lot of games," he said. "I'm still feeling good when given the opportunity and managed correctly.

 

"It has been frustrating that I have picked up these little niggly injuries, which have cost me a lot of games and meant I have missed some important games for Wales in the last couple of years.

"The training philosophy and methods are different at my club than they are here. There are a number of people here who have a number of years of managing me, so they know how to get the best out of me, and so I am able to play a number of games in a row. As I showed in the Euros this year, I'm capable of doing that and producing good performances.

"My outputs in games are pretty high, and maybe I need a bit more rest and recovery throughout the week rather than being on the grass for a long period of time and carrying more fatigue into games. Recovery is a big part of that for me."

Ramsey will lead out his country in the absence of the injured Gareth Bale, with Wales knowing a win would take them above the Czech Republic and into second in Group E with a game in hand.

"It means everything to me to play for Wales," he said. "I am so proud to represent my country.

"I have been as frustrated as anybody else over the amount of game I have missed in the past few years.

"I am happy to be back involved. I am looking forward to these two games, and to lead the boys out will be that extra bit special.

"I have experienced it before, and I loved every minute of it, and I am sure it will be a very proud moment for me and my family."

Gareth Bale has been ruled out of Wales' crucial World Cup qualifying double-header next month with what boss Rob Page describes as a "significant hamstring tear".

The 32-year-old has not featured for club or country since sustaining the injury during a training session with Real Madrid three weeks ago.

Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti recently said he is unsure how long Bale will be out but there was hope he would be back in time for Wales' trips to the Czech Republic and Estonia.

However, Bale – who is one cap short of a milestone 100 for Wales – was left out of Page's squad on Tuesday and is also a doubt for his side's final three qualifiers in November.

"Hamstring injuries are graded from one to four and this is a four. It's a significant hamstring tear," Page said at a news conference.

"This camp has come too soon for him. He's not going to be involved, and that may also be the case progressing to November's camp."    

Bale started Madrid's opening three games of the season and featured in all three of Wales' matches last month, scoring a hat-trick in the 3-2 win away at Belarus.

That ended a 17-game drought without a goal for the Dragons – his second-longest such run – but he could not find a way through in the goalless draw with Estonia last time out.

Wales are third in Group E after four matches, one point behind next opponents the Czech Republic with a game in hand as the pair fight for second place behind runaway leaders Belgium.

Page's side will head into that clash in Prague without undisputed star player Bale, who has been involved in all five of his side's goals this campaign (three goals and two assists).

"He's been first class for Wales over the years, so of course it's a blow for myself and the supporters," Page said. "But it does give others a chance.

"We can't cry about it. Gareth showed his worth in the last camp and he was at another level.

"We've got new players coming through, and an abundance of players who can fill the position he plays. There aren't many Gareth Bales in the world but others will have a chance." 

 

Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey is back involved for Wales after withdrawing from the last squad through injury.

Ramsey has featured four times in Serie A this term and leads the way for passes per 90 minutes (67.71) and successful passes (61.71) among Juventus midfielders.

He has missed several key fixtures for Wales this campaign, but Page insists the former Arsenal man's commitment cannot be questioned.

"We're confident he'll be with us," Page said.

"I understand the fans' frustration because they want the best players turning up. He can put a shift in and did a full pre-season with Juventus.

"Players like him are prone to picking up injuries. He's managing his body better now and I think we're seeing the best of it.

"He's become more robust and shown over the summer he's more capable of playing games. His training will be adapted but we expect him to play both games."

Gareth Bale ended his marathon Wales goal drought with a hat-trick to boost World Cup qualification hopes as the Real Madrid forward showed his class against Belarus.

The €100million man scored for the first time in his past 17 internationals to give Wales a fifth-minute lead from the penalty spot, the first of two spot-kicks he fired home in Kazan.

Captain Bale then hit a stoppage-time winner past Sergey Chernik to give Wales a 3-2 success from their trip to Russia, with the game moved to the neutral location as Wales could not enter Belarus due to sanctions imposed against that country's government.

The tussle did not go entirely to plan for Wales, who conceded twice in quick succession around the half-hour mark, with just 92 seconds between Vitali Lisakovich's equaliser and Pavel Sedko putting the nominal home team ahead. Those had been the first two shots on target for Belarus.

But Bale levelled up in the 69th minute and then produced fresh heroics for his country in the dying moments. He had seven goal attempts in total, and the three he put on target paid handsome dividends for Wales' all-time record goalscorer.

He described the victory as "massive" and said: "We know these kinds of games are probably the hardest because you are expected to win and other teams make it difficult.

"To get that kind of last-minute goal and three points will hopefully keep our momentum going and hopefully we can keep that into the next game."

Wales had missed their previous three penalties, including Bale's failure at Euro 2020 against Turkey, and he admitted that big-stage blunder was in his thinking when he won the early spot-kick chance.

"Of course, you have it in the back of my mind," Bale told Sky Sports. "Missed penalties are a thing in football, it happens and it's about how you bounce back. It was great to score two tonight, because they were important goals.

"[The winner] was kind of last-gasp. Everything was in the box and bouncing around, and I tried to hook it in, and as soon as I saw it go just past his fingers and roll in, I was ecstatic. I knew it was right at the last few seconds."

Only once before had Bale gone longer without scoring for his country – a run of 20 games from 2007 to 2010, in the infancy of his Wales career.

Kazan is over 400 miles east of Moscow, and Bale was unimpressed by Wales being told to play there by UEFA.

"Obviously everything hasn't really gone for us in terms of travelling to Russia," said Bale. "It's not exactly ideal for UEFA or FIFA to put us here, but it is what it is and we've had to use that as extra motivation. Thankfully, we got the three points and we can get out of here."

Gareth Bale says he would support his Wales team-mates if they decided to walk off the pitch due to racist abuse during a game. 

FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings after England players Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham were reportedly racially abused during a World Cup qualifier away to Hungary. 

Gareth Southgate’s side were also booed from some sections of the crowd inside the Puskas Arena while taking the knee prior to kick-off. They went on to win the game 4-0 in Budapest. 

Speaking ahead of his Wales' qualifier in Belarus on Sunday, Bale feels it is only a matter of time before teams walk off the pitch in response to such abuse – a move he feels would be correct in the circumstances. 

"If things don't get sorted, that will happen," the Real Madrid forward said. 

"If we felt we weren't getting protection and being treated the right way by the governing bodies and the only way to get the best response was to walk off, I'd be fully for it. 

"At the end of the day, it's the right thing to do and it's more important than football. 

"We haven't discussed it. But we'd have that discussion if it happened and we'd all agree on it as we're a team that sticks together and if anyone is being targeted, we'll do the right thing." 

As for his club career, Bale is back at Madrid after a season on loan at Tottenham last term.

He has started all three LaLiga games under Carlo Ancelotti and, while having enjoyed his time back at Spurs, the 32-year-old is delighted to be part of a "better environment" at Los Blancos. 

"It is always good to be in a good environment," said Bale, who fell out of favour with former Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.

"I think the biggest reason why I went to Tottenham was because I knew it would be a better environment for me, a break that maybe I needed at the time.

"I had a great time at Tottenham. It definitely helped me mentally to be back in a happier place. I think that showed again coming back with Wales in the Euros.

"I have brought that into Real Madrid this season, where obviously there is a better environment for myself anyway."

Gareth Bale says he would support his Wales team-mates if they decided to walk off the pitch due to racist abuse during a game. 

FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings after England players Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham were reportedly racially abused during a World Cup qualifier away to Hungary. 

Gareth Southgate’s side were also booed from some sections of the crowd inside the Puskas Arena while taking the knee prior to kick-off. They went on to win the game 4-0 in Budapest. 

Speaking ahead of his Wales' qualifier in Belarus on Sunday, Bale feels it is only a matter of time before teams walk off the pitch in response to such abuse – a move he feels would be correct in the circumstances. 

"If things don't get sorted, that will happen," the Real Madrid forward said. 

"If we felt we weren't getting protection and being treated the right way by the governing bodies and the only way to get the best response was to walk off, I'd be fully for it. 

"At the end of the day, it's the right thing to do and it's more important than football. 

"We haven't discussed it. But we'd have that discussion if it happened and we'd all agree on it as we're a team that sticks together and if anyone is being targeted, we'll do the right thing." 

As for his club career, Bale is back at Madrid after a season on loan at Tottenham last term.

He has started all three LaLiga games under Carlo Ancelotti and, while having enjoyed his time back at Spurs, the 32-year-old is delighted to be part of a "better environment" at Los Blancos. 

"It is always good to be in a good environment," said Bale, who fell out of favour with former Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.

"I think the biggest reason why I went to Tottenham was because I knew it would be a better environment for me, a break that maybe I needed at the time.

"I had a great time at Tottenham. It definitely helped me mentally to be back in a happier place. I think that showed again coming back with Wales in the Euros.

"I have brought that into Real Madrid this season, where obviously there is a better environment for myself anyway."

Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey has been ruled out indefinitely with a thigh injury sustained on the opening weekend of the Serie A season.

The 30-year-old started Juve's 2-2 draw against Udinese on Sunday but only lasted an hour before being replaced at the Dacia Arena.

Ramsey will miss Juve's home match against Empoli on Saturday and is also expected to withdraw from Wales' squad for their triple-header of fixtures in September, including World Cup qualifiers against Belarus and Estonia.

A statement on Juve's website on Tuesday read: "Ramsey underwent diagnostic tests this morning, which revealed a low-grade injury to the adductor muscle of the right thigh. 

"In 10 days he will undergo new exams in order to precisely define the recovery time."

Despite lasting just 59 minutes against Udinese, Ramsey played the fourth-most passes of any Juve player (47), behind Matthijs de Ligt (68), Danilo (73) and Leonardo Bonucci (74).

He completed 44 of those 47 passes for a pass accuracy of 93.6 per cent, which was the most of any Juve player to start the match.

Ramsey was used 30 times by Juventus in all competitions last season and created more chances per 90 minutes in Serie A (2.55) than any Bianconeri player to feature more than four times.

The former Arsenal midfielder has been linked with a move away from the Allianz Stadium in recent weeks, with Juve reportedly seeking a €10million offer for his services.

Wales caretaker boss Rob Page insists Gareth Bale still has the hunger and desire to play for his country after including the player in his squad for the upcoming international break.

Page's side face Finland in a friendly on September 1, before resuming their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign with a double-header against Belarus and Estonia.

Speculation surrounded Bale's international future following the Dragons' exit from Euro 2020 at the hands of Denmark.

However, the Real Madrid forward, who has 96 caps to his name, could edge closer to becoming Wales' second centurion after being selected by Page.

Bale, who spent last season on loan at Tottenham, has started twice this season under new Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti, scoring in Sunday's 3-3 draw at Levante.

And Page is confident his talisman has "got the bug back" for football.

 

"It's great news. You want all your players playing competitive football when they come to the camp," Page told Sky Sports News.

"To get any of your players playing week in, week out is a bonus.

"But when you've got Gareth playing now and finding he's got the bug back again, which I saw in some of his performances for Tottenham at the back end of last season, is great news for us.

"He's got a hunger to play week in, week out for his club and he's got an absolute hunger and desire to play for Wales.

"As long as I can see that in his performances then there's going to be no issues whatsoever."

Harry Wilson has ended a 16-year association with Liverpool to join Championship outfit Fulham ahead of the 2021-22 season. 

Wilson – who has signed a deal that could see him stay at Craven Cottage until 2026 – progressed through the ranks of the Reds after joining at the age of nine. 

The 24-year-old made just two appearances for Jurgen Klopp's first team, however, and has spent much of the past four seasons out on loan. 

Spells at Crewe Alexandra and Hull City were followed by a successful stint at Derby County in the 2018-19 season.

He spent a season in the Premier League with Bournemouth in 2019-20, scoring seven goals as the Cherries were relegated, while last term he was on loan with Championship side Cardiff City. 

Wilson has been capped 29 times by Wales and featured for the Dragons in their Euro 2020 campaign, receiving a red card in the closing stages of their 4-0 last-16 defeat to Denmark. 

Fulham also announced the signing of goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga on Saturday after he left Tottenham last month, the 29-year-old Argentine signing a two-year deal.

Alun Wyn Jones is "monumental" for the British and Irish Lions, according to former South Africa wing Bryan Habana.

Jones, the most-capped player of all time with 157 international appearances across his career with Wales and the Lions, has made a remarkable comeback to return to the Lions' squad for their tour of South Africa.

The 35-year-old suffered a dislocated shoulder in a pre-tour match against Japan in Edinburgh and did not travel with Warren Gatland's squad and seemed unlikely to be able to feature in the three-match Test series against the Springboks.

Yet he has made a rapid recovery and will link up with the Lions ahead of Saturday's game with the Stormers.

Jones will be on the bench for that match, putting him firmly in contention for a start in the first Test against the reigning world champions on July 24.

Habana represented South Africa against the Lions in 2009, helping the Springboks to a series victory, and he believes Jones is not only an inspiration to Gatland's team, but to all athletes who aim to draw out their careers.

"It's monumental," Habana told Stats Perform. "All of under-40s, recently retired players, are sort of vicariously living through what he has become in terms of an iconic figure.

"It's astounding, mind-blowing, to think how far he's come over the course of the last 14-15 years since making his debut, that he's still able to produce efforts on a weekly basis that warrant not only his selection in the squad, but warrant his selection as captain of a prestigious side like the Lions.

 

"All of us around the world have an immense amount of respect for him. To go on and break Richie McCaw's Test cap record, but do it in a manner in which people still advocate for him being involved in the side, it tells you the status of the man.

 

"And I, having played the game, not remotely physically as close to what Alun has been doing in the forwards, just have a huge amount of respect for what he's achieved for the game, the manner in which he has played the game, but [also] the respect that he commands both from his own team-mates and from opposition."

The Lions perhaps missed Jones' leadership as they suffered their first defeat in eight matches on Wednesday.

A South Africa A side littered with 2019 World Cup winners won 17-13 in Cape Town, with the Lions losing for the first time in the city since 1980.

It was the lowest points tally the Lions have managed in a game since their 12-3 win over the Crusaders in the third match of their 2017 tour of New Zealand.


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Alun Wyn Jones could yet feature for the British and Irish Lions in South Africa, having made a "remarkable" recovery from a dislocated shoulder.

The 35-year-old, who was set to captain Warren Gatland's touring party in South Africa, suffered the injury against Japan at the end of June but could still fly out on Tuesday, subject to medical confirmation.

The Lions face South Africa A, a side packed with 11 World Cup winners, on Wednesday and Gatland revealed in Monday's news conference that Jones could well return.

"A few weeks ago we didn't think there was an option," the Lions head coach said. "We're waiting for medical reports from him to see what happens with that.

"He's been back fully training with Wales – he's training this week with them. I think he's doing a double session with them tomorrow and we'll see what the outcome of that is."

Conor Murray, who is yet to start a game on tour for the Lions, came in to act as Jones' replacement in the captaincy role.

However, Gatland appreciates the invaluable role the Welshman could play if fit.

"He has made a remarkable recovery in terms of that injury, which wasn't as bad as they first thought," he added.

"It would be a boost to the squad having someone of his experience and calibre to come back into the squad."

Experience is exactly what Jones brings, as he represents the only member of the current touring squad to have faced the Springboks with the Lions previously, while also being the most-capped international of all time.

Having triumphed comfortably in the three pre-test matches against South African club sides the Lions and the Sharks, Gatland's team face South Africa A in what is being billed as an unofficial fourth test.

A subsequent fixture against DHL Stormers will follow before the three showpiece clashes with the Springboks get underway on the 24th July, by which time Gatland will be hoping Jones is fit.

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