Jones hails 'gifted leader' O'Connell


Alun Wyn Jones tells @AdamRedmond about Paul O'Connell the leader #Lions

FOR the second Lions tour running Welsh lock Alun Wyn Jones has been named to start the first Test match alongside Ireland’s Paul O’Connell, who he calls a ‘gifted leader’.

The 27-year-old has been a part of three Welsh Six Nations championship winning teams and has played with influential men like Jerry Collins and Marty Holah at Ospreys as well as Martyn Williams and Ryan Jones for Wales, but he ranks Munster’s O’Connell right at the top.

"Most definitely, he’s a great team man to have. I had a great opportunity to play with him last before I was dropped after the first Test but I featured in a few warm-up games with him, came off the bench in the second two Tests and I enjoyed playing with him and I’m looking forward to playing with him again," said Jones, the winner of this year’s RaboDirect Straight Talking award.

O’Connell’s selection for the Lions looked in real doubt during the spring having missed much of the season for Munster with knee and back injuries and he failed to make it back in time for Ireland’s Six Nations campaign.

However, against Harlequins and Clermont Auvergne in the knock-out stages of the Heineken Cup Jones believes that O’Connell proved he was still at the top of his game.

"Paulie’s come back from his injury and there were doubts whether he would come back and you look at the performances he put in during those Heineken Cup games, it speaks for itself. That is Paul O’Connell," added Jones.

"I think he is gifted as a leader and that is something you can’t learn, you can’t teach. You say he’s not that naturally gifted [as a player], well sometimes it’s the people who’ve worked the hardest that it means the most to."

O’Connell captained the last tour to South Africa where the Lions lost the first two Tests by five and three points, respectively. The margins were so close that despite losing the Test series 2-1, the Lions outscored the Springboks by 11 points over three games and Jones is desperate for the British and Irish players to succeed this time around.

"It’s fine margins, similar to myself and the Wales boys in how close we came to beating Australia last year.  A lot was said about how close we [Wales] came, yeah it was level points across all three Tests, but we didn’t win and that’s what you remember," he said.

"It is a great feeling to win a Test against a southern hemisphere side, but now with the internationals going back to a three-Test series you want to win the series because it’s not about going down there and winning one game and saying “great, we won one and lost two” it’s about winning the series and that’s the realisation. It’s great to win one, but you’ve got to win the series."

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