Rugby

Alun Wyn Jones: British & Irish Lions will be captained by Conor Murray after Wales great’s injury

Alun Wyn Jones left the field after seven minutes in the Lions’ victory against Japan

Alun Wyn Jones will miss the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa because of a shoulder injury and Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray will captain the side instead.

Jones dislocated his shoulder during Saturday’s warm-up game against Japan, where Justin Tipuric also sustained a tour-ending shoulder injury.

Wales’ Adam Beard and Josh Navidi have been called up as replacements.

“Alun Wyn will obviously be a big loss,” head coach Warren Gatland said.

The appointment of 32-year-old Murray – who has toured twice before with the Lions and has 89 Ireland caps – may come as a surprise to some.

England captain Owen Farrell and Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg also feature in the 37-man squad but Gatland said Jones “will be ably replaced” by Murray.

“Conor is an outstanding rugby player and is held in the highest regard with both the players and coaches,” he continued.

“As a three-time Lions tourist, he knows what will be required as captain and I am certain he will lead the squad with excellence. He will also be well supported by an experienced leadership group.”

Murray said adopting the captaincy is a “huge honour” and admitted he was “a little bit” surprised by it.

“There’s such a good group of leaders in this squad that it makes it less daunting, definitely,” he said. “I think there are lads that you can lean on.

“It’s something that I’m going to relish and enjoy rather than feel daunted by it.”

The scrum-half said Jones had congratulated him on being named the replacement captain and shared some advice.

“He came and said ‘congrats, and just be yourself’ and I think that’s really important,” Murray said.

‘No one is in shock’ – Gatland

Alun Wyn Jones on the ground with his head in his hands
Jones was set to go on his fourth Lions tour and first as captain

Jones left the field after seven minutes in the four-try win against Japan following a hit by Japan’s James Moore in a ruck.

The 35-year-old was set for his first Lions tour captaincy having featured in the last nine Tests the side has played.

Immediately after the match, Gatland insisted “no one is in shock”.

“If you are in shock, it reflects back into the whole squad,” he explained. “We understand that things have got to be fluid.

“We’ve got to make the right decisions as quickly as we possibly can and in the calmest way we possibly can.”

Beard will join Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson, Jonny Hill, Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes as the Lions’ second row options.

Wales team-mate Dan Biggar said Jones was “pretty down in the changing room” after the match, echoing Gatland in saying his absence would be a “huge loss”.

“You’ve only got to look at his record and experience,” Biggar said.

“He’s the go-to guy. Things move so quickly on these tours. You’ve just got to put it to one side now and look at the group we’ve got.”

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