“Going Into A Game Like This, You Pick Your Best Players” – Rory Best Weighs In On The AWJ Debate

Form wins.

Former Ireland captain Rory Best has had his say on the Alun Wyn Jones debate ahead of Warren Gatland’s team announcement for the Lions’ opening Test with the Springboks on Saturday.

Jones made a miraculous return at the weekend after recovering from a dislocated shoulder after just three weeks, getting 20+ minutes against the Stormers to put himself back into contention for Test selection.

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And while Jones’ arrival in South Africa is welcome, many feel throwing him straight into the Test XV on Saturday would be a risky move, especially considering the form of the other locks in the squad.

His leadership qualities as tour captain are why some feel he should start, but Best feels the higher you go in rugby, the less important this becomes, given the number of leaders in the Lions squad already.

“I think what happens is, the higher the level you go, the less it becomes important,” Best told us.

“Yes, you need a focal point, and yes, you need a leader there to get around everyone but I think the impact of Alun Wyn Jones coming back to play for the Ospreys against Ulster, versus Wales against Ireland, or the Lions against South Africa – I think it’s diminished each time you go up.

“Now that he’s fit I think it’s really important that he’s out and around the squad, because ultimately, it’s not just about one person, it’s about the layers around that. If he doesn’t start the weekend and Conor [Murray] is captain, if he’s in the 23 that’s another layer of leadership that you know is gonna be there.

“Even if it’s leading the bench because the bench is so important. To have a senior player or a leader around that is as important to keep those guys focused.”

Best feels if you’re picking a team on form, you go with Maro Itoje and Iain Henderson with Jones on the bench.

“It’s a bit of a strange one, because for me if you’re picking on form, it’s Itoje and Henderson,” Best continued.

“But I don’t believe he’s brought Alun Wyn Jones out to not involve him in any of the Tests. Whether it’s this weekend or one of the next two Tests, I’m not sure but I would probably put him on the bench because it would be good to have him around.

“He’s big and based on what he’s done, he’d be the next best guy to have in there. He’s a very, very good player, he’s a very fit guy. He’s not somebody that needs games to find form but I just think you’re going into a game like this, you pick your best players, there are enough leaders around the place to fill the gaps.

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

Former Ireland rugby captain Rory Best and his farming father John Best have teamed up with Specsavers this Farm Safety Week, to highlight the impact that excessive noise exposure can have on your hearing.

Agricultural workers experience one of the highest rates of hearing loss caused by loud noises on the farm[1]. With over 137,500 farms in Ireland and more than a quarter of a million people working in agriculture in Ireland[2], Rory and John are encouraging people to address any hearing issues they are experiencing and to protect their hearing from loud noise.

For more information or to book an appointment visit www.specsavers.ie.