Warren Gatland has confirmed that Alun Wyn Jones is to make a remarkable return to the British and Irish Lions squad less than three weeks after dislocating his shoulder.
Jones was initially ruled out of the tour to South Africa after suffering the injury in the Lions’ first game against Japan at Murrayfield on June 26.
However, Gatland is satisfied that his tour captain has proved his fitness during training with Wales, and Jones will fly to Cape Town on Thursday before re-joining the squad.
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The 35-year-old was given the all-clear to return after taking part in Wales training at the Vale Glamorgan on Tuesday and passing a medical assessment on Wednesday morning.
Lions head coach Gatland said: “We are delighted to welcome Alun Wyn back.
“It’ll come as no surprise to anyone who knows Alun Wyn that since injuring his shoulder against Japan, he’s done everything he can to get himself back.
“It’s remarkable really when you consider it’s just 18 days since he left us in Edinburgh.
“He’s been training with the Wales squad at the Vale since last week and yesterday he had a proper hit out. Following assessment from the medical staff this morning, we’re satisfied he’s fit to return.
“He’s obviously raring to go and from what I’ve seen on video and the feedback we’ve received, he’s certainly not been holding himself back in training. He was really getting stuck in yesterday.
“It’s a massive boost for the Lions to welcome a player of Alun Wyn’s stature back.”
Jones was the captain of the original tour squad but was replaced by Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray when he was forced to withdraw.
Murray is due to captain the Lions from the start for the first time in their game against South Africa ‘A’ on Wednesday evening, live on Sky Sports.
Jones’ place in the squad was taken by Wales team-mate Adam Beard. Ireland’s James Ryan was also considered.
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South Africa ‘A’ vs Lions: Players to watch
The dramatic news that Alun Wyn Jones has made a “miracle” recovery from his dislocated shoulder and re-joined the Lions tour is all the motivation Iain Henderson needs to empty the tank against the shadow Springboks.
His second-row partnership with Maro Itoje has the appearance of a Test combination and an imposing display against strong opponents will underline the value of this abrasive, physical lock who can also play in the back row.
The most intriguing duel of all is unfolding at openside flanker where Tom Curry and Hamish Watson are competing fiercely to face the world champions.
Curry made a delayed start because of a pectoral injury and Watson capitalised on his absence by excelling in the clash with the Sigma Lions.
Against a formidable South Africa line-up, however, England’s high-energy openside has the opportunity to make a statement to Warren Gatland.
Leicester fans know all about Jasper Wiese and he has the chance to really shine for South Africa ‘A’.
With Duane Vermeulen out, Wiese’s big ball carrying skills could see him get the nod for the Bok Test side.
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