Alun Wyn Jones v James Ryan: A closer look at the second-row head-to-head

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Wales and Ireland meet in Cardiff on Sunday as the 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship swings into action.

Intriguing individual battles are set to take place across the pitch, but none more so than a second-row head-to-head between Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones and Ireland lock James Ryan.

Alun Wyn Jones v James Ryan graphic
(PA graphic)

Alun Wyn Jones

Alun Wyn Jones is Wales' leader
Alun Wyn Jones is Wales’ leader (Adam Davy/PA)

Work-rate: It can be tiring just watching Jones, and the amount of work he gets through during a game. The basics – scrum and lineout – are taken as read, but his tackle count is often near the top when it comes to Wales’ match-day statistics, and he is also right up there when it comes to carries and metres made.

Lions verdict: Jones will join a select band of players to be picked for four Lions tours if he makes head coach Warren Gatland’s South Africa-bound squad later this year. Jones has played in nine Lions Tests, a figure bettered by just seven players.

James Ryan

James Ryan in action for Ireland
James Ryan in action for Ireland (Paul Harding/PA)

Work-rate: Ryan has excelled for Ireland on a regular basis, and he was right at the forefront during last season’s Six Nations. His total of 57 carries in the competition was bettered by just three players, and he also finished fourth in the overall lineouts won statistics.

Lions verdict: Ryan also seems set to gain Gatland’s seal of approval, and he would be a first-time Lion. Ryan could also find himself in a selection battle with Jones to make the Test team, with England forward Maro Itoje a clear favourite to fill one of the second-row berths, leaving a vacancy as his partner.

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