Fatherhood, opportunity and captaincy - the Alun Wyn Jones interview

Alun Wyn Jones will captain Wales against New Zealand. David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images

Fatherhood has changed Alun Wyn Jones. Captain of Wales, nine-time British & Irish Lion, but then he is husband to Anwen and father to Mali, with another on the way.

"It's a great leveller changing nappies," he says, remembering the 28-years-old Alun Wyn Jones who used to wonder how hard raising a child could be when he heard his teammates talking about their various ordeals.

Now, aged 32, with his two-and-a-half-year old daughter Mali, he understands. "It is really tough," is the conclusion.

"My dad passed last year and that increases perspective so you put that all together and it's funny (it's a leveller)... it's like life cycles, at one end of the spectrum my family is getting bigger and at the other end it's getting smaller," Jones tells ESPN. "It makes the people left that much more special really."

Jones' urgency hasn't waned but there are also threads of appreciation at what he has achieved. He has these shelves in his mind, filled with nostalgia. Each game is compartmentalised, filed under experience. They are parked until the end of his career, whenever that may be, but as the days, years and caps tick on, the finite nature of his rugby existence is somewhere at the back of his mind.

Life after rugby is on his radar, the family side of his life plays into this. But still, the thought of the next match, the next target, the next goal, the next lineout, pass, kick, tackle is what brings him back to the game.

"Things come and go, there's win, losses and injuries but you get back on the horse but I appreciate what I've done more. I've got a better balance now with family and rugby now than I ever had." But he is still learning.

As we talk in the Vale, soon after he has done his press conference as Wales captain ahead of Saturday's Test against the All Blacks, he references three Ospreys defeats from this season -- their losses against Clermont Auvergne, the Saracens and Scarlets. They aren't regrets, more lessons.

"I assess more, when to step forward and back, but my motivation hasn't waned at all," Jones says. "Losing hurts, it always hurts and it should hurt."

Conversation switches to the Wales defeat against Australia and how they should have held on to the ball better, then their second half performance against Georgia and the lessons they learned there.

And then, he becomes animated, talking about the health of Welsh rugby. He name checks their numerous options on the wing, second-row, back-row, front-row and then the half-back options. Phew. Then he references the returning George North and the hope Ross Moriarty follows suit.

"It's a tasty time". But does he feel like the captain of Wales? It more plays into his view of the transience of rugby.

"I've done it sporadically, I've dipped in and dipped out. In the Six Nations I think I tried too hard, I'll hold my hands up to that. I've done it so long with the Ospreys, and I thought it wouldn't be too different but it is.

"You use people around you, you let them do their stuff and you concentrate on your stuff -- you ask a lot less of them. Gats has been good facilitating that.

"I don't know really whether I do [feel like the captain of Wales], I am aware of my age and the cycle and where we are for the Rugby World Cup. I could be a stop-gap for someone else coming in. I happy to do whatever and facilitate what the team needs - whether that's holding a few hands and facilitating the growth we're promoting at the minute, or do it for the foreseeable future."

His tone softens and unsure when asked whether the praise he receives from his peers in the game has any impact on him. Before the Wallabies game, Adam Coleman talked in awe of Jones, and his place among the pantheon of great locks.

"It is very flattering... but I'm happy to be a cog in the rugby machine that's Welsh rugby," Jones says. "It does wash over me... my wife says to me 'you have achieved a lot'... yeah, I do know. But... there are a couple of things I haven't... if I did, then I could screw the top on and carry them with me..."

Those are winning the Champions Cup, the World Cup and one would persume beating the All Blacks with Wales fits in here - and playing for the Barbarians. The latter itch comes after seeing Springboks second-row Mark Andrews having a dig off the kicking tee in the final kick of their match, and of his career, against England in 2004.

"Maybe it's because he had the same hairdo as me... but it really stayed in the memory, I was like 'woah'... but that's a selfish one."

As he assessed the impact of their win in Lions colours over the All Blacks, he parks it.

"That's the separation. Not one nation will claim that [Lions] win over New Zealand [in Wellington]. You want to do it for yourself like England did a few years back and Ireland did it in Chicago."

The Lions are in one part of his mind's shelf, Wales in another. He drops in the 2009 game against New Zealand at the then Millennium Stadium when he intercepted a pass and galloped away. There was no one on his shoulder.

"I can't rewind the clock, I can't look back and think what would have happened had I looked at the screen and seen Jimmy Cowan, Ma'a Nonu and Zac Guildford tracking back... I don't rue the missed ones, I learn from them."

Jones will not lead out Wales on Saturday as it is Scott Williams' 50th cap. The night before a Test he has developed an understanding to who he needs to speak with, and who is fine in their own space. The nerves will start stirring from the captain's run.

And as he walks out into the Principality Stadium, he will have Anwen and Mali in the crowd. Mali will be shouting "Cymru, Cymru" -- "she's bi-lingual, one of my major character deficiencies is I am not", he says -- but the attention will be on the present. Memories of the game will be Anwen's responsibility.

"My wife's great with that, keeping the photos, shirts and memorabilia I'm very fortunate I've got a good support network."

His focus on Saturday will be on adding another section to his long list of achievements, but there are still memories to make.

"I have to keep pushing. My opportunities are diminishing, I need to make sure I'm ready when they come along. I've had my time in the sun and it's about making the most of what I've got left."