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Dafydd Jenkins Tipped To Be A New Model AWJ For Wales

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By Paul Jones

Warren Gatland has paid new Wales captain Dafydd Jenkins a major compliment by saying he expects to see him “in the mould of Alun Wyn Jones”.

Jenkins has won many admirers through his captaincy of Exeter Chiefs, with the Gallagher Premiership club in title contention and progressing to the Investec Champions Cup knockout phase.

The 21-year-old will take charge for Wales’ Guinness Six Nations opener against Scotland on February 3, with Gatland enthused by his potential.

“We’ve got a young captain who I think will be an outstanding professional,” Gatland said.

“I expect to see him in the mould of Alun Wyn Jones. He doesn’t say a lot, but he leads by example.

“He is last out of the gym, he does his analysis and he has got an edge to him. I don’t mind that. He’s got a group of good men that will be there to support him too.”

Jones made a world record 170 Test match appearances for Wales and the British and Irish Lions, ticking every box as a true great of the game.

He retired from Test rugby in May last year and, with the likes of fellow Welsh Lions Justin Tipuric, Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny also exiting the international game, Jenkins now heads up a new generation.

“The edge is about someone who doesn’t back down,” Gatland added.

“You are looking for someone who doesn’t back down from anyone, someone who gets excited by challenges.

“When I look back on my time in rugby, the best player I coached in that was Lawrence Dallaglio. The bigger the occasion, the more excited he got.

“He absolutely loved it. He would get pumped up for a challenge.

“I think Daf will be like that, going forward. Whatever he is up against, he is not going to fear anything.

“I think with captains, you get different personalities and people. I suppose that is the beauty of it.

“With someone like Daf who has come into that role, it is about how much we support him from a coaching perspective as staff and also the experienced players, like Gareth (Davies) and George North.

“I think we’ve got some quality men in the team and that makes a big difference to me. What I like about this group of people is they are good people.

“If you galvanise them and bring them together, work hard and they will play for each other.”

Meanwhile, Gregor Townsend expects Jamie Ritchie to respond positively to losing the Scotland captaincy as he challenged the Edinburgh flanker to get back to “his top level” and book himself a starting berth for the opening match away to Wales.

The 27-year-old replaced Stuart Hogg as skipper for the 2022 autumn Tests and also led the Scots in last year’s Six Nations and at the World Cup in France.

Alun Wyn Jones And Justin Tipuric Shock Test Retirements Add To Wales Turmoil

However, with Ritchie no longer guaranteed a starting place amid intense competition in the back-row, it was revealed on Sunday that Townsend had appointed Bath stand-off Finn Russell and Glasgow flanker Rory Darge as his new co-captains ahead of the upcoming championship.

“He’s reacted really well,” said Townsend, when asked on Monday at the Six Nations launch in Dublin how Ritchie had taken the news. “I’ve been in communication for a few weeks now around his game and also the captaincy.

“He was well aware that we were going to leave this decision until the weekend. The focus for him is about getting into the team that plays Wales and he’s really determined to do that. That will be tough because the competition we have in the back-row right now is at a high level.

“We’re all optimistic that this (relinquishing the captaincy) will bring out the best in Jamie and he can be one of our best players, back at his top level.

“We saw on Friday night when he came off the bench against Scarlets, there was a real hunger and intent about how he went through his game.

“The competition in the back-row and the ability to just focus on that at training should be a positive for him leading into the Wales game.”

“He can be one of our best players but he is competing with some guys who are in really good form at openside and blindside. Jamie will be a key leader for us if he’s in the 23 or the XV.”

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