Alun Wyn Jones is forced to leave the pitch

Credit: SHUTTERSTOCK

British and Irish Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones is facing a nervous wait over his tour future after being forced off in the opening minutes of the warm-up match against Japan with an apparent shoulder injury.

The Wales lock lead out the Lions at Murrayfield for their farewell fixture against the World Cup quarter-finalists, in a match that was arranged to give head coach Warren Gatland extra preparation time before Sunday’s departure to South Africa.

But the Lions’ plans were undone in the eighth minute when Jones was injured while challenging for possession at a ruck, with a clearout from opposite second row James Moore, who caught him on the left arm/shoulder.

The 35 year-old, who had been selected for his fourth consecutive Lions tour and has made a world record 157 Test appearances – nine of which has come for the touring side – left the field and was replaced by England lock Courtney Lawes. The grimace across his face as he departed only increased those fears that it could be potentially tour-ending injury.

“It’s a huge blow,” said Sam Warburton, Jones’ predecessor as Lions captain on the 2013 and 2017 tours. 

“Alun Wyn never gets injured or goes down. He’s such a durable player. It’s such a shame, you’re looking at a two week injury that would result in missing three or four games.”

To make matters worse, fellow Welshman Justin Tipuric was also forced off with injury in the opening half.

Injuries have played a pivotal role on Lions tours in the past. In 2005, captain Brian O’Driscoll was taken out of the first Test against New Zealand after an illegal tip-tackle from Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu dislocated the Irish centre’s shoulder, while Warburton himself was forced to start the opening match of the 2017 series on the bench as he recovered from a hamstring blow – having also missed the 2013 third Test with Australia due to a similar injury.

The Lions are due to depart for South Africa on Sunday ahead of their match with the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg next Saturday, with the three-Test series against the Springboks getting underway on July 24.

More to follow…