Wales head coach Wayne Pivac hailed captain Alun Wyn Jones as the “ultimate professional” ahead of his record-equalling cap in this weekend’s clash with Scotland.
Jones has been named in Wales’ team for Saturday’s Six Nations game in Cardiff, which is set to go ahead as planned despite the competition’s other two matches being postponed amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The 34-year-old will match New Zealand icon Richie McCaw’s tally of 148 Tests when running out at the Principality Stadium, nine of those coming for the British and Irish Lions.
And Pivac has paid tribute to influential skipper Jones, who made his Wales debut against Argentina almost 14 years ago.
“You just need to speak to anybody he plays against and they’ll tell you what it’s like to play against him,” Pivac said at a news conference on Thursday.
— Welsh Rugby Union (@WelshRugbyUnion) March 12, 2020
“They hold him in high regard. I’ve seen first-hand what Alun Wyn does, not only on the field but in terms of training and our environment, in terms of his leadership off the field.
“What he does is just huge. At training, the whistle blows and we’ll shift from one drill to another and he’s up and sprinting, the first guy there every single time.
“Then you see in a game, when he gets up off the ground, he’s gone. He’s the ultimate professional.
“Every country will have someone who they will say is the ultimate professional, and in Wales, he is that guy.
“Equalling the record will be a proud moment for him and, all being well, he’ll break that record and that will be an even prouder moment.”
Jones will be joined in the second row by Cory Hill for Wales’ concluding Six Nations fixture, as Pivac makes four changes from the 33-30 defeat to England last weekend.
Uncapped Sale Sharks prop WillGriff John and fellow front-rower Wyn Jones are also included, while scrum-half Rhys Webb will make his first Wales start since November 2017.
The Scotland team depart for Cardiff with additional hygiene measures in place at Edinburgh Airport. pic.twitter.com/TyskaW2Ta2
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) March 12, 2020
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has made three changes to his starting XV.
Stuart McInally and Magnus Bradbury have been brought into the side following last week’s 28-17 win over France, while Sam Skinner will make his first start of the campaign.
“Wales are the Six Nations champions and came very close to making a World Cup final,” Townsend told reporters.
“Are we underdogs? I would have thought so. We’re ranked below them in the world rankings and have not won there for a long time.
“The players want to carry on the good work we’ve been doing and also go to a place where they have never won before and play our best game of the season.”
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Nick Tompkins, Hadleigh Parkes, Liam Williams, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, WillGriff John, Cory Hill, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi.
Replacements: Ryan Elias, Rhys Carre, Leon Brown, Will Rowlands, Taulupe Faletau, Gareth Davies, Jarrod Evans, Johnny McNicholl.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (captain), Sean Maitland, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Blair Kinghorn, Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInally, Zander Fagerson; Sam Skinner, Grant Gilchrist; Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Magnus Bradbury.
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Allan Dell, Willem Nel, Scott Cummings, Matt Fagerson, George Horne, Duncan Weir, Kyle Steyn.
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