Alun-Wyn Jones: I'm really not Mr Angry, rugby is my job
Tom Hamilton
April 21, 2015
Alun-Wyn Jones
Alun-Wyn Jones© Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Alun Wyn Jones has a flaw. "One of my biggest work-ons is to try and decompress from the game but it's perennially difficult," he told ESPN. "This year with the World Cup - if I'm selected - then its three weeks off and then straight into camp and after that, if it goes well, it'll be a week or two then into the season.

"It's pretty non-stop but it's a great life to be having and to be playing a game you love. Not switching off isn't a big issue for me though it probably is for the family and the wife. But they've got me forever when I retire."

Aged 29, and having seen the way elder statesmen Brad Thorn, Ali Williams, Bakkies Botha and Paul O'Connell are going about their business, his family will have to wait a good while longer.

When assessing where he falls short in the rugby stratosphere, his inability to turn his back on the game in his down-time is about it. He has three Six Nations titles to his name and is already in the pantheon of Welsh rugby greatness.

But he seems restless and despite recently being crowned Wales' greatest ever second-row - "it's flattering but let's save that for when I'm done and we can see what's on my CV with the Ospreys and Wales" - he still suffers from relentless introspection. The desire for success is ever-present.

Different players have their own demons. The younger Alun Wyn found it a little daunting when he first assumed the Ospreys captaincy in 2010. He was the one barking orders at Adam Jones, Ryan Jones and Shane Williams. He has since grown into the role. Talk of him captaining the British & Irish Lions to their series win in 2013 is restricted to a couple of brief sentences: "I can rejoice in what I have achieved, when I have retired. I know that's a dire answer but I find it so dangerous to look back rather than looking at tomorrow."

And then it comes back to the question of what he finds daunting now. In rugby terms, it is the great unknown, just what 'tomorrow' will bring. "Without being too profound about it, I am late 20s now and even though I hopefully have quite a few years left, there are finite opportunities to win trophies. I have a few holes on my CV I am keen to fill up and that's more daunting than anything else for me."

He is Swansea through and through. The holes on his CV are as much Wales as they are Ospreys. He has already got Celtic League and Anglo-Welsh medals to his name with his beloved region, but it is that pursuit for more which keeps him running out at the Liberty Stadium. He wants to win a European title there. He wants the team to improve game-on-game. He emphasises it is not a case of proving those pre-season doubters wrong but fulfilling potential.

Outside influences - the media, mind-games - don't figure on his radar. Which is why when you see him walking to the Liberty Stadium on matchdays - hoodie up, thousand-mile stare and headphones on - it is not a case of him wanting to stay incognito but a case of being in what he terms assuming the 'game head'.

It is a process that normally happens two to three hours before the game. It is that persona and his complete, unwavering focus during the game which leads to him being regarded as an angry individual, but it isn't a tag that sits easy with him.

"I do struggle sometimes... not with talking to people, just the timing sometimes if I've got my game head on. I just get my head down, be polite and be as courteous as I can be. That doesn't always happen, not because there's dislike, it's because I have a job to do and that's where my focus is. Rugby's my job first and foremost. That's a pretty big shift in mindset I've had. It's not because I'm angry, it's because it's my job.

"Apparently I'm the angriest man...I don't know, it's just an interpretation. If it was someone else, they might be called focused or competitive. I'm not that angry or grumpy but if you want to say I'm angry because I'm focused or competitive then that's okay. I'm happy in what I do and I just like cracking on, doing what I love. The people around me know who I am and that's what means the most. We can have a pint and smile when we win."

Alun Wyn Jones
Alun Wyn Jones© Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

The losing still hurts as much as ever. "It's hard to get out of bed sometimes if you've played in a game where you've come close, you've made 20 odd tackles and you're battered and bruised. It's the flip side of being competitive. If opportunities are becoming fewer, then you know the chances to win are also diminishing. But that's what keeps you coming back, you know your rugby career will stop at some juncture. You just have to enjoy every moment."

The Six Nations was bittersweet. His take is after the events of that opening night in Cardiff where they fell to England, they would have taken being in the race on the final day. Warren Gatland set a 40-point winning target for Wales, something they achieved but still ultimately fell short. It was a case of the match being in the "hands of the God" so the after-effects linger shorter than their experiences in Australia where they fell by short margins on a Groundhog Day basis.

His future with Wales is sorted having signed a dual-contract back in March. It was a process which was at times frustrating but now he is content. "For me, the kid inside is happy as I can stay in Wales and can play in black and red."

The red will wait and the focus is now on the black of the Ospreys and Judgement Day on Saturday. "We are fourth in the table but we had a great start to the season. That's probably a fair reflection of where we are at the moment. It's about finding where we are, finding a path and trying to get into those play-offs. If we get there, we won't have exceeded our own expectations. We were disappointed with the Champions Cup but we are under no illusions over what we've got left to achieve."

When domestic duties come to an end there is the carrot of the Rugby World Cup. With it being just over the Severn Bridge, for someone who likes his home comforts the carrot is far larger than the stick. But any mention of the World Cup is prefaced with "well, if I'm selected".

If he is picked then it will be the routine, the same focus but will there be anger? Not a bit of it.

"Ultimately rugby players are like surfers. You look for the perfect wave but you don't always find it. And if you did, you'd probably pack up and try something else. If you felt you'd achieved everything, with that old cherry on top, you'd feel at a loss for your next challenge. Fortunately, I haven't found the perfect wave. That's the great thing about this sport, it's always different.

"You've got a little shelving unit in your mind. There are the previous competitions you've won in the past and those you haven't. You've got to have that so you know all the work you've got to do. It's nothing crazy. It's not about being angry it's about thinking calmly about what's left to do. You might never get it, but you can have fun along the way."

© Tom Hamilton

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