Welsh legend Alun Wyn Jones will play on after this autumn’s World Cup having signed a new deal until 2021.
The 33-year-old Wales captain is understood to have turned his back on strong interest from clubs in England and overseas to commit to an extended National Dual Contract in his homeland.
The deal will continue to be 60 per cent funded by the Welsh Union and 40 per cent by his region, the Ospreys – and it could see him end his illustrious career with a fourth Lions tour.
Jones’ current deal was due to run out at the end of the Japan World Cup but having signed an 18-month extension he will continue to play at the Liberty Stadium – where he has been a mainstay since 2005 – for at least another two seasons.
The second-row, who lifted the Six Nations Grand Slam title in March, announced the news on Instagram.
‘I have some news I would like to share with you,’ he wrote.
‘I’m happy to announce that I have signed a contract extension to June 2021 with the Welsh Rugby Union and Ospreys so will be playing at the Liberty Stadium for the foreseeable future.
‘After serious consideration and taking stock of all options, it is the right decision for my career at this point in time, along with my personal ambitions on and off the field, my welfare and needs of my family.
‘I’m grateful to have the opportunity to tell you directly, in particular to the Ospreys supporters and all those who have supported me during my career to date. ‘Thanks Alun Wyn.’
Jones now has a shot at ending his incredible career – in which he has won three Six Nations Grand Slam titles – with the Lions in South Africa in 2021.
At the age of 35 he could make his fourth tour and take his Lions Test cap total into double figures – an unprecedented figure in the professional era.
The last player to play 10 or more Tests for the great touring side was fellow Welshman Sir Gareth Edwards, between 1968 and 1974.
Former Irish lock Willie John McBride holds an unsurpassable record of winning 17 Test caps between 1962 and 1974.
With Wales coach Warren Gatland taking the side in South Africa in two years’ time, if Jones is fit and firing he would be a popular choice to tour.
In September he will lead Wales in his fourth World Cup where his nation are expected to make at least the semi-finals.
Jones, who has won 125 caps for his country, will break the national record for Test caps set by Gethin Jenkins – on 129 – during that tournament.
Commenting on the announcement, The Group Chief Executive of the WRU, Martyn Phillips, said: ‘This announcement is a huge boost for Welsh rugby.
‘Alun Wyn is hugely respected across the game and I’m delighted he has committed his future here in Wales and that he will be continuing to play for his hometown region.
‘It is a boost for the game both on and off the field and I’m sure the news will delight both Wales and Ospreys supporters alike as he continues to inspire the next generation.
‘The extension allows the WRU and the Ospreys to continue working together with Alun Wyn to ensure he has the very best of environments to thrive in.’
Allen Clarke, Ospreys head coach, added: ‘Today’s announcement is fantastic news for us as a club and all Ospreys and Wales supporters.
‘Alun Wyn is a man I have the upmost respect for; he is greatly admired not just because of what he’s achieved and what he represents as a local boy playing for his home Region and Country but importantly because of the ambition and level of performance he consistently displays.
‘He’s a tremendous individual and a winner with a deep hunger for the Ospreys to be successful on and off the field. Alun Wyn has spent his entire career with the Ospreys and I expect him to continue his legacy as a player and well beyond his playing days.’