Alun Wyn Jones will become rugby’s most capped international when he captains Wales against Scotland in Llanelli on Saturday on an afternoon when his protege, Shane Lewis-Hughes, wins his first cap.
Jones will be making his 149th Test appearance to overtake Richie McCaw while the back rower Lewis-Hughes, who the Wales coach Wayne Pivac said was being mentored by Jones, is one of six changes from the side that lost to France in Paris last weekend as a greater emphasis is placed on ball-carrying.
Two Premiership players, Exeter’s Tomas Francis, and Wasps’s Will Rowlands, who has been linked with a move to the Dragons, have fortified the front five while Gareth Davies replaces the injured Rhys Webb at scrum-half, Owen Watkin takes over from Nick Tompkins in the midfield and Liam Williams has displaced George North on the wing.
The Wales attack coach Stephen Jones admitted this week that victory was essential after a run of four defeats and Scotland have not won in Wales in the tournament since 2002.
Defeat would leave Wales reflecting on their worst Six Nations campaign since 2007, the previous one when Warren Gatland was not at the helm. The Lions head coach will be watching the match and paying attention to Jones.
“I am not surprised that he has reached this milestone or the longevity of his career,” said Gatland. “He does not often get injured, trains all the time and as he has matured he had learned to manage himself better.
“I am not sure how long he will keep going. I think he has ambitions with the Lions. Second row is a position with a huge amount of depth and quality so it is going to be a challenge for him. It is important that he has a good Six Nations and if he does end up in South Africa, it would be his fourth tour, an incredible feat.
“It is an amazing accolade to be the world’s most capped player, particularly from a small nation like Wales. I think he will set the bar incredibly high and could get another 10 or 20 caps. He is very much his own man and it is a strength he has brought to the Wales team.”