Fans have not reacted well to Stuart Barnes latest column for The Times, which saw the former England fly-half back Maro Itoje to captain the Lions and brand Alun Wyn Jones a ‘diminishing’ force.
“Rugby historians may look back to November 28, 2020, this most hollow of sporting years, and say: “Yes, that was the day.” The day that Warren Gatland — watching his old team from a distance — inked in the name Maro Itoje as his British & Irish Lions captain for the (fingers crossed) 2021 tour to South Africa,” wrote Barnes in his Times column.
“Tomorrow Itoje, 26, takes on the illustrious Alun Wyn Jones, 35, the captain of Wales, seemingly a setting sun.
“I cannot remember so few mentions of Jones in commentary when watching Wales; I cannot remember seeing those grand slam-winning choke tackles in tandem with Justin Tipuric, one after the other.
“His carrying game is next to non-existent and the Welsh lineout has been a fundamental weakness of their side.
“Jones’s great days are diminishing. He is mortal, after all.”
It’s not the first time Barnes has questioned Jones, but this time his words really did get under the skin of some supporters.
One fan wrote: ‘Barnes has nothing useful to say so he throws out a controversial piece just to warrant his salary from the Times.’
Another added: ‘You poor man. It must be dreadful to be so bitter!’
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Billy Vunipola and five other players who played for both England and Wales
1. Stuart Barnes
Although born in Essex, he was to captain Wales Schools. However, Barnes made his England debut against Australia in November 1984. He gained ten caps for England and played his last international match in 1993 against Ireland.