Who Has the Most Caps for Wales in Rugby Union?

George North rugby
George North (Credit Marc / Flickr)

On the 13th of March 2024, Wales legend George North announced he would be retiring from the international game at the end of the Six Nations campaign. North is still relatively young at 31 and will continue to play at club level, having agreed a move from current club Ospreys to Provence, in France, for the 2024/25 campaign. He is still good enough, and therefore young enough to be picked in the future by Wales but his move to French rugby has complicated matters and he has decided to call time on what has been a long and successful career with his country.

North made his debut for his nation back in 2010 and holds a number of records for Wales. Those include being the country’s youngest try scorer (both overall and at the World Cup), as well as being the youngest Welsh player to reach 50 and subsequently 100 caps. However, one record he does not hold is that of being Wales’ record appearance maker. The brilliant centre may have appeared some 120 times for Wales, and be set to bow out with 121 caps, but he is not top of the pile in terms of outings for the Welsh men’s rugby union team.

So, who is? We’ll count down to number one but let us start with start with number nine, thus including all Welsh players with 100 caps or more. Or rather number eight, as we have a two-way tie! Note that all stats are taken from the official Welsh Rugby Union website and are correct as of the 14th March 2023.

Donncha Ryan tackles Gareth Thomas
Donncha Ryan tackles Gareth Thomas (Credit Clare Courier / Flickr)

8) Martyn Williams, 100 Caps

Williams made the triple-digit caps benchmark… but only just. He made his 100th and final Wales appearance against the Barbarians in 2012. His international bow came back in 1996 and the Pontypridd native, a talented footballer as a youth, also went on three Lions tours.

8) Gareth Thomas, 100 Caps

Like Williams, Thomas only just scraped into the 100 club, earning his century of caps in the defeat to Fiji at the 2007 World Cup. The positionally versatile player also represented his nation at rugby league. Since retiring he publicly announced that he was gay, his exceptional autobiography Proud winning the 2015 Sports Book of the Year Award. There has been much talk of his story being made into a film but despite Mickey Rourke and then Tom Hardy being linked to the lead role, nothing has yet materialised.

7) Leigh Halfpenny, 101 Caps

Leigh Halfpenny may “only” be seventh in terms of caps but the world-class former fullback and occasional wing was a superb place kicker and lies third in terms of Wales points scorers. He made his international debut in 2008 and retired in 2023, though plays on at club level for Crusaders in New Zealand.

5) Stephen Jones, 104 Caps

Stephen Jones was born in Aberystwyth in 1977 and played for his nation between 1998 and 2011. He also made six appearances for the British & Irish Lions and was a wonderful fly-half who also occasionally played at inside centre. Like many others on this list he also captained his nation and is their second-highest points scorer (behind only Neil Jenkins).

5) Taulupe Faletau, 104 Caps

Taulupe’s father, a Tongan international, moved to Wales to play rugby in 1997, bringing his son Taulupe, sometimes known as Toby, with him. Faletau would go on to have a stellar career with Wales and is still active, meaning he could yet rise higher up this list. He will turn 34 in November 2024 and made his Wales debut back in 2011.

4) Dan Biggar, 112 Caps

Wales have been hit hard by the retirements of a number of key players who formed the core of their team for much of the last 10 years or more. Dan Biggar is another who recently decided to call it a day, announcing that he would retire after the 2023 World Cup. Like others, he wanted to leave on his own terms, with health and family cited as reasons for his somewhat surprising decision. Biggar played for Wales between 2008 and 2023 and also appeared three times for the Lions.

3) George North, 120 Caps*

We have already spoken about George North and what a player he was, and indeed will continue to be for Provence. Had things worked out differently he may well have been able to go and challenge for the honour of being Wales’ most-capped player and would almost certainly have overtaken the man we talk about below in second. Nonetheless, North enjoyed a stellar career with Wales, even though he was born in King’s Lynn, in England. The centre, who could also play on the wing, scored a try on his debut for Wales and at 18 years and 214 days remains the youngest player to accomplish that. A stalwart of the national team for 14 years, Wales will feel his absence in the seasons ahead.

2) Gethin Jenkins, 129 Caps

Jenkins played alongside many of the players on this list and for around three years he was Wales’ most capped player until being surpassed by the man beneath. He played for the British & Irish Lions on three tours and including those five appearances he is the most-capped prop (in fact most-capped front row) in all international rugby. Jenkins made his international debut in 2002, against Romania, but really came of age in the 2005 Six Nations when he helped his side claim the Grand Slam.

1) Alun Wyn Jones, 158 Caps

Alun Wyn Jones has set a record which seems unlikely to be beaten for a long time and his 158 caps for Wales puts him well clear of all the rest. He also appeared 12 times (officially, plus one extra game against Japan) for the Lions and must go down as one of the very greatest Welsh players of all time. Recently (2023) retired, Jones is the most-capped player in all of international rugby union, not just for Wales, and made his international bow in 2006 having previously played at U18 and U21 level. He won the Six Nations Championship five times, including three Grand Slams, and was Player of the Championship in the last of those, in 2019, when he also received his second nomination for World Player of the Year.

* – North is expected to earn a 121st and final cap