Wales out to keep home record alive

Wed, 10 Oct 2012 15:58
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Veteran prop Gethin Jenkins has warned that Wales’ unbeaten home record of 2012 will not be given up lightly.

Veteran prop Gethin Jenkins has warned that Wales’ unbeaten home record of 2012 will not be given up lightly.

Wales face Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia at the Millennium Stadium on consecutive weekends next month, beginning with the clash against the Pumas on Saturday, November 10.

The Six Nations Grand Slam champions haven’t lost in Cardiff this year, in fact, the 90-times capped prop’s side have lost just three times in the ten internationals played at the national stadium over the last two years.

Since going down to England in the Six Nations opener in 2011, only the Barbarians – in June of last year – and Australia in December have managed to win on Welsh soil, with Wales notching up seven home victories in that time.

Jenkins featured in just one of the losses (to the Wallabies), but played in all three home Six Nations matches (and the Barbarians win) in 2012, ensuring his place in history as one of only a trio of Welsh players to have notched up a modern day Grand Slam hat-trick (05, 08, 12) - alongside Ospreys namesakes Ryan and Adam Jones.

Front row talisman Jenkins was also instrumental in helping Wales to the Rugby World Cup semi-finals in New Zealand at the end of 2011, the start of a rich vein of form which culminated in Grand Slam glory.

But he then travelled with the Wales’ tour party which lost all three Tests, albeit by increasingly close margins, against Australia in June and he is adamant Wales need to be a different proposition at home.

“Obviously we lost in the summer and that’s motivation in itself, but the last time we played at home was that Grand Slam game against France in March in front of a sell-out Millennium Stadium crowd,” said Jenkins, speaking from French club Toulon, where he moved this season after eight years’ service at Cardiff Blues,

“The feelings of winning that match on home turf are still fresh in the memory and we will be wanting to keep that home record alive this year.

“Argentina are first up and that will be a tough challenge and we saw in the Rugby World Cup how tough Samoa can be.

“They pushed us all the way, we managed to win it by a few points in the end, but they won’t be any different this Autumn. They have a lot of players around the UK and France and they always bring a big team over so we will need to be ready for them.

“It’s been a while now, two or three years since we beat a Southern Hemisphere team. Everyone will say Australia are there for the taking because they’ve got a few injuries, but we saw in the summer how tough a team they can be.

“We’ve got to be at the top of our game. We have a week’s preparation in Poland which should get us right for the series and we’ve got to learn from our mistakes in the summer and be clinical in those final stages.”

Since completing his move to the South of France to join the French Championship runners-up, Jenkins has vied with England prop Andrew Sheridan for a place in the starting line-up, but he believes his own game can only benefit from playing in the illustrious company which makes up Toulon’s squad.

“It was crazy at first to go there [Toulon] and be in the same team as some of the boys you’ve played against over the years at international level,” said Jenkins.

“We have some great players in the squad in people like Matt Giteua, Jonny Wilkinson, Bakkies Botha and Carl Heyman. Being surrounded by them in the same team and seeing that they are just the same as you and just as determined to win as you are is a rewarding experience.

“I’m just getting used to the different environment at the moment, with some of those great players you learn something off them every day and, for me, it’s just a case of getting more games under my belt and getting used to the style of rugby out in France.

“It’s been a big change in terms of the lifestyle and culture and the rugby is completely different. I’ve enjoyed it, obviously I haven’t played as many games as I’d have liked, but I’m getting used to the surroundings.

“Probably in the past I’ve played summer internationals and gone straight into pre-season and matches. In France I’ve been on the bench a few times so there are positives in that you get a certain amount of rest, but I’m raring to go now and with the Autumn internationals with Wales coming up I’m really looking forward to it.”

Jenkins, who at loosehead prop has literally - as well as metaphorically - been the first name on the team sheet for many of his 90 internationals to date, is taking nothing for granted in terms of selection, but can’t hide his excitement about the upcoming international campaign.

“I want to keep playing for my country, obviously, but there are a lot of boys knocking on the door at the moment,” added Jenkins.

“Paul James has been playing well, Rhys Gill is back for Saracens and it is going to be a tough series. In every game you want to put that jersey on and do your best for your country, it’s always a great honour and we will all have one eye on that game against the Pumas.

“Argentina are definitely one of the toughest teams to play against, especially in the front row area. I’ve played out in Argentina against them in a couple of big Tests for Wales and that’s definitely an area they thrive in, so it’s especially challenging to face them as a prop.

“And they’ve got a lot of young players coming through now. Whereas maybe a few years ago they relied on a core of senior players they’ve perhaps developed a bit more underneath now because of their experiences in the Rugby Championship.

“We’ve all been watching them and we know what a good team they are and know that they will be coming to Cardiff battle hardened.”