Jones: Lions have to be better again to win series

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Alun Wyn Jones speaks to the team before they run out

Alun Wyn Jones defied expectations to lead The British & Irish Lions to victory against South Africa in the first Test but the captain warned there is still work to do.

The tourists recovered from a 12-3 half-time deficit against South Africa in Cape Town to take control of the Castle Lager Lions Series against the world champions with a memorable 22-17 triumph.

A second half try from Luke Cowan-Dickie and 14 points from Dan Biggar’s boot helped the men in red clinch the opening Test against the Springboks in their first meeting since 2009.

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And having made a miraculous recovery from a dislocated shoulder to start against the world champions, Jones was happy to prove his doubters wrong once again.

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“I feel like I’ve been in a Test match but I’ve had those doubts [about lasting the full 80 minutes] for a considerable time in my career, so I’m used to them,” said Jones.

Alun Wyn Jones in a ruck

“Any kudos, however it comes from Maz, [Maro Itoje, who described him as a ‘high-energy senior citizen’] I’ll take. My effort was borne out of getting back into this group.

“I didn’t know I was going to be selected but I’m happy to be part of it and add to the energy the guys brought. We showed threads of what we could do in the games leading up to it.

“There were questions after the South Africa ‘A’ game [which the Lions lost 17-13] and we probably posed a few of those questions the way we played in those early exchanges.

“But we came through the pressure we felt in the middle third. The set piece became prevalent, so we can be pleased but there are definitely things to work on from the early part of the game.”

Jones was playing his 10th consecutive Test for the Lions, 12 years after making his debut in the famous red jersey against the Springboks in the 2009 series defeat.

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The 35-year-old’s fourth Tour had appeared to be over before it started when he came off injured just seven minutes into the tourists’ 28-10 victory over Japan in Edinburgh.

But the Welsh icon joined up with the squad just 18 days later and after making 10 tackles in a titanic defensive display, Jones paid tribute to the contribution of the whole squad.

“Everybody has been part of this from the start of the Tour and they still are,” he said. “A squad wins a series and that has in no way, shape or form diluted how we will enjoy this evening.

“The focus will come pretty quickly on Sunday and Monday when we’re straight back into it. Everyone part of this and that has been the mission statement from Gats from the off.

“We were pretty composed at half-time. I wouldn’t say disappointed, probably more frustrated by the fact we put pressure on ourselves.

Gatland's Lions celebrate

“Our kicking game got better in the second half, our aerial game improved and the set piece became a focal point for both teams in that second half.

“It was essentially to do what we were doing but better and avoid putting pressure on ourselves. We were able to do that and keep the scoreboard ticking over.”

And while Jones said the players will enjoy their winning start to the Castle Lager Lions Series, he insisted that they will not rest on their laurels until the job is done.

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“You want to win every game, whether domestic, international or Lions. We know what we’ve achieved but we also know what we haven’t achieved,” he said.

“There is still plenty to do and this is a three-Test series. Knowing the calibre of the player and the attitude our opposition have, we have to be better again – first and foremost within ourselves.

“But we also have to deal with what we know is going to come next week. There were smiles after the game. In any sport, you have to enjoy moments like this as they don’t come round very often.

“But the caveat to that is we are only a third done and that message has already been planted. It’s a time for everyone to take stock of where we are and be ready to move on to next week.”

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