Wales suffer double blow as Jones and Tipuric retire before Rugby World Cup
Wales were hit by a dramatic double blow on Friday as Alun Wyn Jones, the world's most-capped international, and fellow senior forward Justin Tipuric both announced their retirement from Test duty just four months before the side's Rugby World Cup opener against Fiji in Bordeaux.
They had both been included in Wales coach Warren Gatland's 54-man World Cup preliminary training squad, which is due to assemble next week.
Jones, a 37-year-old lock, made 170 international appearances, including 158 for Wales and 12 for the British and Irish Lions in a 17-year Test career.
"Having been selected in this year's preliminary Rugby World Cup squad, and after ongoing dialogue with the coaching staff and the WRU (Welsh Rugby Union), I have decided to step away from the international game," said Jones in a statement on his Instagram page.
"So, after 17 years, I look back on special memories with Welsh greats and future Welsh greats."
Former Wales captain Jones made four tours with the Lions, in 2009, 2013, 2017 and 2021, when he skippered the combined side in South Africa.
He also won three Grand Slams and five Six Nations titles with Wales.
But his retirement, and that of Tipuric, led to speculation the pair had been told they were not going to make the final cut for the World Cup.
- 'Phenomenal career' -
Veteran coach Gatland, however, hailed Jones as an "incredibly special player", saying: "I would like to congratulate Al on a phenomenal international career.
"His leadership, dedication and determination are second to none, and he has been an incredibly special player for Wales over the past 17 years.
"Every single time he has taken to the training pitch or put on the red jersey in a Test match he has given his absolute all, setting standards and leading by example."
The New Zealander added: "I am very fortunate to have been able to have worked with him with Wales and with the Lions.
"Al's passion and commitment for his country are limitless, and he has been an important pillar for the game in Wales... He leaves a lasting legacy in Welsh rugby."
- 'Privilege' for Tipuric -
Jones's decision was made public less than an hour after Ospreys team-mate Tipuric, a veteran of 93 Tests, announced he too was quitting the international game.
"During the off season I've had time to reflect on my career and now seems the right time to step away from international rugby," the flanker said in a statement.
"It has been a privilege to put on the Welsh jersey and have so many great memories," added Tipuric, who made his Wales debut in 2011 and appeared in his lone Test for the Lions, against Australia, two years later.
Tipuric, 33, also won four Six Nations titles, including two Grand Slams, and was a key figure in helping Wales reach the World Cup semi-finals in both 2015 and 2019.
"Justin has been an integral player in the Wales back-row since he made his debut back in 2011," said Gatland as he praised Tipuric's "outstanding contribution to Welsh rugby".
"He is quite quiet off the pitch, but his skill-set and his work-rate really set him apart from others," he added.
Tipuric, however, stressed he would be continuing his career with the Ospreys, the Swansea-based regional side.
"I am looking forward to spending more time at home and putting all my energies into playing for my home region the Ospreys," he said.