Part of an exclusive club of Welshmen to have won three Grand Slams, Adam Jones was a distinctive and destructive presence in his country’s front row throughout a glittering 11-year international career.
Widely regarded as Wales’ finest tighthead prop of the professional era, Jones won four Championships in all and his performances led to British & Irish Lions recognition in 2009 and 2013.
Whether it was effective scrummaging, powerful carrying or hard work at the breakdown, Jones became an essential cog in a Welsh machine that enjoyed plenty of Guinness Six Nations success.
Jones retired in 2018 with 100 Test caps to his name, 95 for Wales and five for the Lions, and 44 of those appearances came in the Championship – which Jones made his mark upon year after year.
To celebrate the Six Nations’ 20th anniversary, you can create your Greatest XV on the Guinness Six Nations app and choose from more than 150 players, including Adam Jones.
FROM ABERCRAF TO AUSTRALIA
Born in Abercraf, deep in the Welsh rugby heartlands, Jones was part of a rugby family and followed in the footsteps of his dad, uncle and grandfather by playing for the village side – featuring for Abercraf’s first XV at the age of 17.
He quickly began to rise through the ranks and made his professional debut for Neath in 2000, switching to Ospreys when Welsh rugby was regionalised three years later.
His impressive performances at club level saw him win a full international call-up in 2003 and he made his debut off the bench against England in a World Cup warm-up match and he did enough to earn a place in Steve Hansen’s squad for the tournament itself.
Despite having just two caps to his name going into the World Cup, Jones featured in all five of Wales’ matches in Australia, helping them qualify from the pool stage before they were beaten in the quarter-finals by eventual winners England.
Jones made his Six Nations bow in the opening round of the 2004 Championship and marked the occasion with his first Wales try, going over after 15 minutes in a 23-10 win over Scotland in Cardiff.
He was surprisingly withdrawn after half an hour in both that encounter and the clash with Ireland the following week, with Hansen citing Jones’ fitness as his reason for the early changes, and an injury sustained on Ospreys duty ruled the tighthead out of the remainder of the Championship.
GRAND SLAM GLORY – PART ONE
By the time the 2005 Championship rolled around, Wales were under new management as Mike Ruddock had taken charge.
Jones started in all five matches and his first campaign as a Championship ever-present ended with Wales winning their first Grand Slam since 1978.
A famous 11-9 win over England, sealed by Gavin Henson’s memorable late kick, got the ball rolling and Wales continued to sweep aside all-comers to set up a grandstand finale against Ireland.
In front a jubilant Cardiff crowd, Wales won 32-20 to seal an historic Grand Slam, with Jones playing the first 68 minutes in the front row to cap a superb Championship on an individual and collective level.
It was the first time in the Six Nations era any country had won a Grand Slam playing more games away than at home and a young Jones was right in the thick of it.
He started all five Championship matches once more in 2006 but Wales slipped to fifth, a position they occupied again the following year.
Wales then endured a disappointing 2007 World Cup, exiting at the pool stage after a 38-34 defeat against Fiji which had seen Jones left out the starting XV by Gareth Jenkins.
BACK FOR MORE
Consecutive below-par Six Nations campaigns followed by an early World Cup exit meant the only way was up for Warren Gatland when he took charge ahead of the 2008 Championship – but not many people could have foreseen the scale of Wales’ improvement.
Jones was back in from the start for Gatland’s first game in charge and helped Wales to a first win at Twickenham since 1988, the visitors scoring 17 unanswered points to roar back from 19-6 down and claim the spoils.
Gatland’s troops kept their momentum going to surge to another Grand Slam, with Jones playing four of the five matches – including the opening 71 minutes of the 29-12 victory over France on the final weekend.
The power in the Welsh scrum was an integral part of the Slam-sealing victory in Cardiff, while Jones was a vital part of a defence which conceded just two tries across the course of the Championship.
The following year saw Jones become a British & Irish Lion for the first time, earning his first cap as a replacement in the first Test against South Africa and making an immediate impression against Tendai Mtawarira.
Jones started the second Test but a shoulder injury unfortunately ruled him out of the third, which saw the Lions gain a consolation victory in a 2-1 series defeat.
Wales’ shaggy-haired talisman remained a regular fixture in their Championship squads around the turn of the decade, crossing for his second Guinness Six Nations try in a 30-17 defeat at Twickenham in 2010.
In 2012, Jones started all five matches and missed just 27 minutes across the tournament on the way to yet another Grand Slam.
The tighthead played the full 80 minutes in the 19-12 win at Twickenham and the 16-9 win over France in Cardiff which sealed Wales’ third clean sweep in seven years, with Jones firmly establishing himself as one of Gatland’s key lieutenants.
Winning the PRO12 with Ospreys capped a memorable 2012 and though an opening round defeat against Ireland in 2013 dented Wales’ ambitions of back-to-back Grand Slams, it didn’t stop them winning the Championship for a second successive year.
They sealed their triumph with a thumping 30-3 win over England in Cardiff, a game which saw Jones assert his authority in the scrum as Wales romped to their biggest ever victory over their old foes.
He toured again with the Lions in the summer of 2013, starting all three Tests in a 2-1 series win in Australia to further cement his place as one of the leading forwards of his generation.
Jones’ Championship farewell came in the 2014 Championship, when he again appeared in all five matches as Wales earned a third-placed finish.
His final international appearance came later that year as hopes of a fairytale comeback never materialised, and Jones retired from the game in 2018 after a spell at Harlequins.
“I’m very pleased with my knock,” he said. “When I first played for Neath I never thought I’d do what I did or get as far as I did because I didn’t come through the system at age-grade and all that.
“It’s been an amazing career, a fantastic 18 years.”
He remains one of just six players to have won three Grand Slams for Wales and he is in esteemed company.
Gareth Edwards, Gerald Davies, JPR Williams, Ryan Jones, Gethin Jenkins, Alun Wyn Jones – and Adam Jones. The prop’s place in Welsh rugby folklore is secure.