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Welsh rugby bids fond farewell to celebrated trio with 352 caps between them

04 Nov 2023 3 minute read
Barbarians’ Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric sing the Welsh national anthem ahead of the Autumn International match at the Principality Stadium, Joe Giddens/PA Wire.

Warren Gatland reflected on an “incredibly special” occasion as Welsh rugby said farewell to three of its biggest names in the sport’s professional era.

Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Leigh Halfpenny, who won 352 caps between them, enjoyed a fitting send-off from international rugby as Wales beat the Barbarians 49-26 in Cardiff.

A crowd of 53,000 roared its approval, with a prolonged standing ovation afforded to Halfpenny when he went off 13 minutes from time proving particularly memorable.

Billed as a tribute match, all three players played their part, with Wales full-back Halfpenny contributing five conversions, while official player-of-the-match Jones scored a try and captained a Barbarians side that saw flanker Tipuric among his team-mates.

The southern hemisphere

Halfpenny is now set for a move to the southern hemisphere, with Super Rugby heavyweights the Crusaders his likely destination, while Jones is currently with French club Toulon and Tipuric remains a key figure in Ospreys colours.

“For the three of them, to have that game here in the stadium was incredibly special,” Wales head coach Gatland said.

“I thought the crowd were amazing in recognising that as well.

“I thought ‘Tips’ played well today, he caused us a few problems at the breakdown. I said that to him afterwards and he said ‘there’s still life in the old boy yet’.

“Al (Jones) as well. It was an entertaining game, and in fairness to them they put us under some pressure.

“We talked about leaving Leigh on for 80 minutes, but then there was an opportunity to bring him off. I thought the ovation he got is testament to him not just as a rugby player, but as a person.”

First-half tries by hooker Dewi Lake, wing Tom Rogers and fly-half Sam Costelow gave Wales a flying start in their final match before a Six Nations opener against Scotland on February 3.

But Fijian scrum-half Simione Kuruvoli scored two Barbarians tries, and when Jones crossed early in the second period, Wales led by just two points, with Nicolas Sanchez adding a conversion double.

Replacements Taine Plumtree, Aaron Wainwright and Kieran Hardy (2) claimed second-half touchdowns for Wales, though, with Halfpenny and Cai Evans each adding two conversions, with Barbarians flanker Tom Hooper also scoring a try, converted by Ben Donaldson.

Gatland added: “To score 49 points, you’ve got to be pretty happy. We probably left a few out there in the first-half, with some of the opportunities we created.

“We scrummaged well, the lineout was outstanding today – both defensively and on attack. As the game went on, we grew into it.

“There were times where I thought we defended well and didn’t give them opportunities. But there were also times when we came under some pressure with their off-loading game, and we were stressed.

“I am pleased where we are, I am pleased with this group of players.

“We are setting standards and expectations on ourselves in terms of what we expect as a team going forward.

“We know this next Six Nations will be a challenge, but if you keep working hard and keep believing, we are capable of doing things and winning matches. We showed that in the World Cup.”

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6 months ago

Really enjoyed this very entertaining game by both sides. Warren Gatland must be extremely chuffed especially with newcomers playing so spectacularly. Pob lwc iddynt yn y flwyddyn newydd.

Charles Coombes
Charles Coombes
6 months ago

The best game of Rugby I have seen in a very long time. Running the ball, tap penalties , making it up as best you can and players smiling and enjoying the game.
More like this in the 6 Nations please.

6 months ago

Doubt it, when six nations come around they’ll be back to “let’s not to try and lose the game to early” mentality. Just like how the Women messed up a winning position the other day vs OZ.

6 months ago

They’d be better thought of abroad had they been Irish or English! The fact they are From Wales will always be used against them when talking about if they are true greats. We know they are but others won’t see them as such.

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