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Danny Jones tribute: Praise for Lizzie Jones' performance at Challenge Cup Final

The widow of Danny Jones, has sung in his memory at the Challenge Cup Final in Wembley.

Lizzie Jones - a professional singer - performed 'Abide With Me' before 70,000 fans.

Lizzie Jones sings Abide with Me before the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup Final at Wembley Stadium Credit: Paul Harding/PA Wire
Lizzie leaves the pitch with her children after singing Credit: Paul Harding/PA Wire

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North to set new world record in tomorrow's comeback

Wales star George North will set a new world record when he makes his rugby comeback in tomorrow's Test match against Ireland.

At 23 years and 138 days, Northampton wing North will become the youngest player in rugby union Test match history to reach 50 caps for his country.

George North is poised to set a new world record when he makes his rugby comeback tomorrow. Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

North made his Wales debut against South Africa in November 2010, scoring two tries, and what has proved to be a stellar career now hits another notable landmark.

He returns to action for his first appearance since late March. He suffered three concussions last season, but is now fully fit.

Shane Williams returns to old team Neath

Shane Williams is returning to Neath - this time as an ambassador, but he hasn’t ruled out pulling on the famous black jersey once again.

Shane has signed up to be an ambassador for the club. Credit: PA

The 2008 world player of the year has agreed to lend a helping hand to the club where it all began for him in senior rugby.

Recently retired Williams will provide support for the club's coaching team and take on ambassadorial duties.

Williams turned down an approach from Merthyr RFC a fortnight ago.

If he can get himself fit enough then it would be great to see him play a few games, but it will be a question of working around his other commitments and seeing how best we can make things work for us and for him.

– Neath owner Mike Cuddy

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Wales international Ryan Jones announces retirement

Credit: Andrew Matthews/EMPICS Sport

Wales star Ryan Jones has announced his retirement from professional rugby 'with immediate effect'.

The former captain gained 75 caps for his country and won three Grand Slams.

His full statement:

The old cliché of making the decision with a heavy heart is true on this occasion. The last few weeks have been emotionally tough for me. I’ve had to recognise, and come to terms with, the fact that while the mind is still very willing, the body is no longer able to do what I want it to on a rugby pitch.

After sustaining a shoulder injury in May and subsequently undergoing surgery to repair the damage, it became clear that I could no longer carry on, leaving me with little option other than to call time on what has been an incredible personal journey.

Rugby has been a huge part of my life for the last decade and a half; not just as my job but as a passionate hobby also. There is no doubt that no longer working all week towards a big match at the weekend will leave a huge gap in my life that a few rounds of golf won’t fill!

Looking back on my career, I can say that I have enjoyed some fantastic highs and, although there were some well documented lows along the way, the overriding feeling is one of immense pride and satisfaction. If someone had told me 20 years ago that I was going to achieve and experience a fraction of what I have then I would have been over the moon.

Throughout my career I’ve been extremely fortunate to be a part of some fantastic teams, for club and country, and to play in front of the best fans in the world in some of the best sports stadiums. I’ve met countless wonderful people on and off the field, and shared dressing rooms with all-time legends of the game – many of whom I can now call personal friends. Not bad for a late starter at Risca Youth!

Highlights of my career obviously include three Grand Slams with Wales and four league titles with the Ospreys, but I can’t take a final bow without referencing the stand-off against the Haka in 2008. It was absolute theatre and although I never got to beat the All Blacks, I think we can claim that victory at least.

Make no mistake about it, rugby is in my DNA, and will continue to be a big part of my life for many years to come, albeit without the physical slog I’ve become used to over the years.

Over the coming months though, I’m looking forward to spending more time with my wife, Ailsa, and our young family, who have sacrificed so much to allow me to fulfill my dreams. Ailsa has been a constant rock by my side, always keeping me grounded during the ups and giving me the support I’ve needed during the downs. For that, I’ll always be extremely grateful.

It goes without saying that I am forever indebted to my parents and sister for everything they’ve done for me from day one. The sacrifices they’ve made, the encouragement they’ve given me, and the satisfaction they’ve taken from watching me succeed in rugby has been incredible and without them the Ryan Jones story would never have got started.

A lot of what I’ve actually achieved in my career hasn’t just been my dream. It’s been my mates dream, my family’s dream, it’s everyone’s dream, and so sharing it with them has been special.

My one regret is that my youngest daughter will never get to see me play rugby, will never get to walk out onto the pitch in front of a big crowd with me. However, rugby has provided me with many tales I can bore her, and her brother and sister, to tears with for many, many years to come!

One thing that every sportsman has to face up to is retirement, it’s the only inevitable thing about a sporting career. Over the last 18 months I’ve been preparing for that transition, upskilling myself ready to face the next challenge in the commercial world.

You can never fill the void in your everyday life when you hang up your boots. There’s life after rugby, of course there is. When you are 22 or 23 you don’t realise that, and before you know it, you are no longer the kid with potential, you are a grey haired thirty-something who is a long time retired. That’s me today, and what I can do, is ensure I tackle the next chapter in the same way I got stuck into my rugby, and give it absolutely everything.

For now, I look forward to enjoying the Rugby World Cup as a Welsh supporter, knowing from my own personal experiences in 2011 that it is the biggest spectacle in the sport.”

– Ryan Jones, former Wales captain

Tipuric: training schedule is tough

Credit: David Davies/PA Archive/PA Images

Justin Tipuric believes that Wales' pre-World Cup training schedule is the toughest he has experienced in his rugby career.

Wales' punishing preparations for a so-called pool of death - they are in the same group as former World Cup winners England and Australia, with only two teams making the quarter-finals - have seen them visit Switzerland and Qatar for intensive training camps.

And after making a powerful statement with their fitness at the last World Cup four years ago - Wales reached a first semi-final since 1987 - head coach Warren Gatland has again overseen a demanding itinerary.

I'm not going to lie, it's tough - the toughest training I have experienced, without a doubt. But it is what you expect. You are going to a World Cup and you don't expect it to be easy. We were fit in 2011 but you want to be fitter again, so you have to push it further. Qatar with the heat and Switzerland with the altitude are different kinds of things that we are not used to.

– Justin Tipuric, Flanker
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