Former Scotland international Jim Hamilton admits he’s “embarrassed” by his previous claims Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones doesn’t deserve a place in Warren Gatland’s 2021 British and Irish Lions squad.
Wales are currently on course for what would be a sensational Grand Slam following an impressive 40-24 win over bitter rivals England last weekend.
Record cap holder Jones was at the centre of the win at the Principality Stadium, producing a performance that has put him firmly into contention for the Test XV against South Africa later this year, as well as the captaincy.
After watching Wales slump to defeat at the hands of Scotland in Llanelli during last year’s rearranged Six Nations clash, Hamilton suggested the Ospreys star would likely be below several other names contenders.
“A lot of people say he is going to go on the Lions tour,” he said at the time.
“In my opinion, he is not in the best four second rows. I’d say Jonny Hill is playing better than him. Scott Cummings from Scotland. Across the board in terms of where we stand now is Alun Wyn Jones in the top four second rows? Maro. James Ryan for Ireland: now he is not in the form he was but in my opinion he is still playing better than Alun Wyn Jones.
“There is no doubt about it, Alun Wyn Jones is still a fantastic player. Like he absolutely is… but I have named four second rows there, Maro Itoje, James Ryan, Jonny Hill and Scott Cummings. Is Alun Wyn Jones the fifth or sixth? This is up for debate.”
However, the recent revival under Wayne Pivac has made those claims look increasingly wide of the mark, and Hamilton has now admitted he’s been forced to change his opinion, not just on Jones, but also his Wales team-mates.
Hamilton had also suggested no Wales players were worthy of being in Gatland’s Lions XV.
Speaking after win over England, he told the Rugby Pod : “I know there was a tweet that came up on social media, is Jim going to apologise?
“I’m sorry, from the bottom of my heart. There is a couple of things. I’m pumped for rugby that Wales aren’t on the demise and aren’t on for a wooden spoon. And I’m embarrassed by some of my comments, I’m happy to say it.
“A load of them. Saying I think Wales, they’re down and out. Alun Wyn Jones isn’t the player that he was. I thought he was brilliant.”
However, he does believe that the Wales captain was still upstaged by England counterpart Maro Itoje
“I don’t think he was as good as Maro,” he added. “I know Maro gave away ten penalties or whatever it was, five penalties at the weekend, but that is what it is.
“We have got an opinion and our opinion is not always right.
“For whatever reason, and I for one had written Wales off – I don’t know why, I’ve only ever beaten them once – and when it matters, when it really, really, really matters they turn up. A Lions year, Gatland is in the crowd wearing his mask, absolutely loving it, playing against England, everyone is thinking England are going to beat them.”
But the 38-year old admits that after seeing several Wales stars step up to the plate, he is going to think twice before writing them off again.
“Alun Wyn Jones, captain, I’ve questioned him, is he good enough? George North, we spoke about him two years ago and I’m like, ‘I don’t think he is that good’. He was phenomenal at the weekend and then you add into the mix now they have got Louis Rees-Zammit. Josh Adams after Covid-gate comes in and plays the way that he has played. Fair, fair play to them.
“Another point we can talk about as well is the back row, Justin Tipuric doesn’t give away a penalty. He never gives away penalties and the way that he plays, so I go back to my point – from a Wales perspective, I am sorry. I will never, ever doubt you again until you drop Alun Wyn Jones and then you’re never going to win again because that guy is the in-form second row in the Six Nations.
“I can’t believe that somewhere I also said that the Wales-Italy game might be for the wooden spoon. There needs to be a forfeit for that. I’ve shaved my head, I don’t know what else to say but like Elton John said, I’m sorry.”