Warren Gatland, Jones’ coach for almost the entirety of his Test career, watched up close as Jones learned the hard way not to sacrifice his body for the cause. “He’s a player who doesn’t often get injured, trains all the time and probably, as he’s got a little bit older and matured, he’s learned how to manage himself a lot better than his younger days – trying to get him to have a rest or a break, he didn’t always want to do that. It was almost like a martyrdom thing.
“I think there’s a balance now between once he got married and children I think he’s got a fantastic balance between rugby, and training, and home life and he’s matured incredibly well, is unbelievably respected by the players – the example that he sets at training, the high expectations that he has on himself.”
The fact that Jones always seems to recover in time is no fluke. His insatiable drive to win every training drill with either Wales or the Ospreys has become the stuff of legend, and that extends to his recovery work.
“It’s his application, his will to get back. He wants to do the best at everything,” Stridgeon said. “He’s a winner. He wants to get back mainly for the team. A fantastic professional, as good as you will ever get. Whether physical or mental work, looking at the laptop for detail, or skill work, he puts as much as he can possibly get into the day.
“I have a joke with him in that I call him ‘Filo’, as in the pastry, first in, last out. He’s the first at training and in the gym and the last one out every single time. When we’re at training and go from one block to the next, he sprints there. He’s the first one at the next block. He still looks as though he’s in his first cap week. Still has that drive. That’s testament to him and why he’s got all the caps.”
That exceptionally high drive to be the best, combined with an incredible amount of luck avoiding any major reconstructions or ligament tears, explains why Jones is still here today, poised to add to his 152 Test caps when Ireland visit the Principality Stadium on Sunday.
The importance of wearing the three feathers on his chest remains as poignant as ever. If anything, Jones recently seemed frustrated that he had not been able to contribute to the Ospreys’ promising start to the Pro14 season under new head coach Toby Booth.
“Look, I’ve been very fortunate to be involved in quite a few [Six Nations] and I’m here again,” Jones said recently. “For a number of years people have put sell-by dates on certain things. It doesn’t wear off. I was a fan before I pulled on this jersey and to hopefully be in it again out on the field still means a great deal.”
Just as it will mean a great deal to everyone in Wales watching a healthy Jones, having recovered right on time yet again, lead out the team on Sunday.