British & Irish Lions
Jones backs Gatland to lead Lions in 2017
July 14, 2013
Alun Wyn Jones and Paul O'Connell have aired differing views on Lionc coach Warren Gatland in recent days © Getty Images
Victorious Lions lock Alun Wyn Jones believes coach Warren Gatland can work his magic again in New Zealand in four years' time.
Jones, who led the Lions to victory in the series-deciding third Test against Australia last weekend with tour skipper Sam Warburton sidelined through injury, believes Gatland's bold selection policy for that pivotal clash - that saw veteran centre Brian O'Driscoll dropped - proves he is the right man to orchestrate their quest for another historic triumph against the All Blacks.
Gatland was widely criticised for leaving former Lions captain O'Driscoll on the sidelines in Sydney but was totally vindicated as the tourists roared to a 41-16 victory to set the seal on a first series victory since 1997. And Jones, who took on the captaincy role with Paul O'Connell, another contender, also out injured, would not be surprised to see Gatland reprise his role in his native New Zealand.
"It's funny because before the last game everyone was criticising him, saying that he had done the wrong thing with his selection, and now they are touting him for the next one," Jones wrote in the Sunday Express. "Can he do a good job? Definitely. He proved that when he gambled and it worked. I don't know if it's the Midas touch but whatever he does works."
It was a second Lions tour for Jones and he insists it is far too early to look ahead to a potential hat-trick. "There are a lot of things to take into account for four years' time," he added. "How I'm playing, how my body is, where I'm playing and what the situation is with family. I know I'll only be 31 but a lot of water will have passed under the bridge by then. I like to look ahead but I don't like to look that far ahead."
Jones was at the centre of one of the early talking points of this year's tour, when Australia captain James Horwill was cited for stamping on him in the first Test of the series. Horwill was cleared at an initial disciplinary hearing and though the International Rugby Board appealed, the verdict was upheld and Horwill was allowed to play in Sydney. Jones continued: "Nobody knows the intention other than James himself. I shook his hand before the game and I shook his hand afterwards.
"Everybody who plays the game has seen red at some point or other. I have been there myself but I have been around too long in rugby to hold grudges. By the end I felt a little bit sorry for James. I thought if he got off once, fine, let's crack on and play rugby. It became a sideshow towards the end and detracted from the main event."
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