Monday, 19 July 2021 13:21

Staff Reporter.

Returning British and Irish Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones is fit for Saturday's first Test against South Africa, says defence coach Steve Tandy.

Tandy also confirmed "the majority" of the team for the game had been decided.

Jones, who dislocated his shoulder in a warm-up match against Japan on 26 June, played 30 minutes last Saturday,to complete a remarkable recovery.

Asked if the Wales great had played enough rugby to come in for the first Test, Tandy said: "I believe so."

Jones came off the bench to make his return as the Lions completed their Test series preparations with a 49-3 over the Stormers.

Tandy added: "Al historically does some pretty special things. He is fit, he is raring to go. He keeps himself in great shape, so there will be no issues there.

"He has got unbelievable experience. His leadership qualities are outstanding as well. He will be fine."

Should Jones be selected for Saturday's match, the lock will earn his 10th Test cap for the Lions, having played on the 2009, 2013 and 2017 tours.

The 35-year-old faces competition from compatriot Adam Beard, England's Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill and Courtney Lawes as well as Ireland's Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne.

Tandy said reaching 10 Lions Test caps would be "an unbelievable achievement", adding that he felt "really privileged" to have worked with Jones as head coach of the Ospreys.

"Having that injury against Japan, I think 99% of people aren't coming back and may have given up," Tandy said.

"He never gives up. I haven't seen anyone like him being that professional. The lengths he takes it to is pretty unique I think."

Head coach Warren Gatland is set to announce his team for the first Test on Thursday and Tandy said most of the side had been decided, with "one or two things to confirm".

Fly-half Finn Russell is the only player unavailable for selection as he continues to recover from an Achilles tear, but he is still in contention to feature later in the three-Test series.

Tandy said the coaching staff's selection meeting on Sunday night lasted more than an hour and a half and involved "massive decisions".

"It was one of the toughest things I have been involved in," Tandy continued.

"In other tours, maybe people have played themselves out of the Test match 23, whereas I think all our boys have really put their hands up."