If you’re going to win a Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam, you’ve got to have a good captain.
And Alun Wyn Jones was exactly that in 2019 as Wales conquered all that came before them to secured a first Championship win in six years.
Jones was everywhere for the Welsh side as they went to Paris and won, went to Rome and won, went to Edinburgh and won, and beat England and Ireland at home, with the lock constantly putting his body on the line for the benefit of the team.
The Wales skipper made 81 tackles in the five matches of that Championship, with 12 registering as dominant, as a staunch Welsh defence kept their opposition at bay to secure win after win, with only five players topping his tally in that regard.
Time and again it would be Jones you would see being launched in the air to secure a lineout for his side, with his experienced, reliable hands ready to gather possession for the men in the red jerseys.
But sometimes the statistics don’t show what a difference one player can make on a team just by simply being there. By being the person that leads by example and rallies the troops, and gets them to go again and again, even when they think they can’t go any further.
Alun Wyn Jones is one man who summons that belief out of his teammates more than anyone, and was more than deserving of his Player of the Championship crown in 2019.
The tackle machine rebuffs the rest
It speaks volumes that Wales won the 2019 Championship while still registering the least amount of metres gained with ball in hand of any team in the competition.
Their total of 2699 was almost 750m less than next-placed France, while Scotland ran more than one and a half kilometres more than the title winners, the most of any team in the Guinness Six Nations that year.
And with no team scoring fewer tries than Wales as well, it is no secret that this Championship triumph was built on a sturdy defence, which is where Jones excels.
The big tackles, the wrestle for possession, the constant grinding and battle up front, that’s just meat and drink to the Welsh skipper, he does that in his sleep, and he did so time and time again in 2019, with any player carrying the ball near him doing so at their own peril.
Off to a flyer in France
There can’t be too many harder places to start a Guinness Six Nations campaign than the Stade de France, with 60,000 home fans baying for blood in the Parisian coliseum.
Many a side have gone to the French capital and crumbled, but with Jones’ leadership, Wales held their own and more against Les Bleus, surging back from a 16-0 deficit to win 24-19.
Louis Picamoles and Yoann Huget crossed early doors for the hosts, before a second-half fightback saw Tomos Williams cross before North added a double to seal the deal.
With the rapturous crowd behind their backs, the hosts gave their all to try and break down the red wall in front of them but they could not break down the impenetrable Welsh backline, with Jones making 15 tackles himself to keep them at bay.
Triple Crown caps it off
After a 26-15 victory over Italy in Round 2, Wales’ momentum was starting to build and in Round 3 they came up against England in Cardiff.
It was a familiar story for Warren Gatland’s side, who left it late to rescue the victory on their own turf, with Cory Hill and Josh Adams striking late to steal a 21-13 win.
Once again, Jones was in the thick of the action in the Welsh capital, and kept his side within striking distance for much of the game with another rock-solid performance in defence.
Another 16 tackles in the bank from the captain helped Wales on their way, while they excelled at the set-piece, with five scrums and 10 lineouts won during the 80 minutes.
An 18-11 victory over Scotland followed, with yet another excellent effort from everyone in red, led by Captain Fantastic – leaving a Grand Slam within their sights ahead of a final round showdown with Ireland.
And if there’s anyone you want to lead you into battle when the stakes are high it’s Jones, who will have kept his side composed and their eyes on the prize ahead of the final match of the Championship.
A Gareth Anscombe kicking masterclass sealed the deal in the end in Cardiff, with the fly-half adding 20 points from the tee in a 25-7 win to claim Grand Slam glory.
It may have been the backs that got the plaudits for their try-scoring antics, but this Championship win wouldn’t have been possible without Jones leading the way and using every ounce of his experience to drive his team to success.