Wales v England? Alun Wyn Jones has been there, done that... 22 consecutive times

By Gareth GriffithsBBC Sport Wales
George North scores against England in 2019 with Alun Wyn Jones celebrating
George North scores against England in 2019 with Alun Wyn Jones celebrating
Six Nations 2021: Wales v England
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff Date: Saturday, 27 February Kick-off: 16:45 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds, BBC iPlayer & Radio 5 Live, BBC Sport website and app, S4C

If you want to know what it is like to play in the heat of a Wales v England international, ask Alun Wyn Jones.

The Wales captain will lead his side into Saturday's Principality Stadium showdown having featured in more encounters with England than he has against any other opponent during his record 154 Test appearances.

The 35-year-old has made no fewer than 22 successive starts against England since he first lined up against them in 2007. Won nine, lost 13 if you were wondering.

Jones has seen pretty much everything this famous fixture has to offer.

Yet there will be something new even for him this weekend as Wales aim to complete a Triple Crown.

There will be no Principality Stadium capacity crowd creating the cauldron of tension between rival supporters and players.

England captain Owen Farrell and Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones have been team-mates on two British and Irish Lions tours
England captain Owen Farrell and Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones have been team-mates on two British and Irish Lions tours

There will be no Welsh singing reverberating around the ground punctuated by choruses of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot in response.

Instead, the sides will be greeted by an empty stadium.

"It's a very different one," said Jones.

"I know we've already played against England once without a crowd in the Autumn Nations Cup (in Llanelli).

"That was everyone getting through the midst of the pandemic, but this one in the Six Nations is definitely heightened with the excitement that goes around it.

"To be involved is as good as it gets from domestic to international rugby."

Jones' stock remains high, especially among opponents. England coach Eddie Jones has remained remarkably quiet this week in the pre-match build-up.

Unnervingly so, for a man who has not been averse to throwing a few verbal grenades to try to unsettle Wales before recent matches.

But he has reserved his few words of conflict for his namesake Alun Wyn by warning his players about the prospect of being targeted with wind-ups by the Ospreys second-row.

Wales skipper Jones repeatedly niggled Kyle Sinckler in the 2019 Six Nations game in Cardiff. The provocation had the desired effect as Sinckler conceded two penalties in quick succession, leading to a pivotal shift in momentum and the red rose prop's substitution on the hour mark in the 21-13 defeat.

So Eddie has made a point of it, but Wales' wily leader has seen and heard it all before.

He has refused to rise to the bait.

"Our focus is us and that's what we'll maintain going into this game," was his only offering in response to media enquiries about Eddie Jones' comments. Next question please.

George North with fellow Llandovery College boys and Wales internationals Alun Wyn Jones and Andy Powell
George North with fellow Llandovery College old boys and Wales internationals Alun Wyn Jones and Andy Powell

He was more forthcoming on George North becoming just the sixth Welshman to win 100 caps for his country.

Jones is the only current Wales player who was involved in North's debut against South Africa in 2010 and they are both former Llandovery College pupils.

"To share someone's first cap is pretty special, to share their 100th is as special, if not more," he said.

"It's hard to put into words, but testament to his hard work and the things you don't see.

"It's not just the 80 minutes or the nine-to-five, it's the things people do when they're coming back from injury, facing criticism and going through the mire.

"Those are the things you respect as a fellow professional and George has done them in abundance. To see him leading us out on Saturday will be a special moment for him, his family and for us to be a part of.

"Any professional can keep going through two reasons - selection or desire. George has the second in abundance and that leads onto the first. I'm sure he's got plenty more in there."

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