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Gethin Jenkins . . . The “Rugby Anorak” Aiming To Pull The Hood Over Shaun Edwards

By Steffan Thomas

Gethin Jenkins is a “rugby anorak” whose obsession can help Wales counter the influence of Shaun Edwards when they meet France in Paris on Saturday.

That’s the upbeat prediction of Gruff Rees, the man who has overseen the coaching development of of Jenkins at Cardiff Blues.

Jenkins has replaced Sam Warburton in the Wales management set-up, specialising in defence and the breakdown area, having been drafted in by head coach Wayne Pivac.

He will be on the sidelines for the first time this weekend, when Wales play their first Test for seven months in a clash against the French that is live on S4C.

Rees is the current academy manager at the Blues, where Jenkins has been cutting his teeth as a coach and making rapid strides since his retirement from an illustrious playing career two years ago.

Now, after time served as Wales U20 defence coach, comes Jenkins’ arrival in senior international coaching  – and a head-to-head against France defence coach Edwards, the barking general who oversaw Welsh strategy for so long.

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“Gethin is a real rugby anorak and watches rugby around the world, constantly,” says former Ospreys coach Rees.

“He’s been working out some of his defensive principles over the last few years and I know he learnt a lot from Shaun Edwards.

“He’s started to form his own defensive ideology taking some of the good and the bad from various coaches he’s worked under.

“He’ll come into training with new ideas which some of the other coaches hadn’t thought about and they are really technical and in depth. He’ll see things on a rugby pitch which other people don’t.”

Jenkins won a then record 129 caps for Wales and the prop is one of the few players in the game who can boast three Grand Slams in their locker, not to mention three tours of duty with the British and Irish Lions.

But “Melon” as he was nicknamed by teammates, always held a surprisingly low public profile, in part due to his aversion to the spotlight.

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As a coach, he has continued to try and stay in the shadows – rarely giving interviews – but Rees insists he has developed his communications skills and they are coming to the fore on the coaching field.

“He embraces feedback and even though there’s a couple of rough edges he reflects really well on his own coaching,” says Rees.

“He also imparts his messages in the right way to players so they understand exactly what he wants.

“He’s a hard taskmaster and demands high standards but he’s learned that young players in particular are different and he would suit his delivery to what was the best message to young players.

“That was enormous credit to him because it’s not one size fits all.


“He can be extremely strict with players, which is needed a lot of the time, but he can also put his arm around a player who needs support.

“People very really see that side of Gethin, but it’s definitely coming out in his coaching He’ll want to push players to their potential but he’s a generous soul as well.”

The fixture may be a warm-up for the resumption of Wales’ Six Nations campaign the following weekend, but there will be no shortage of interest, given the absence of international rugby since March.

Young Gloucester sensation Louis Rees-Zammit could well make his debut on the wing, there may be a chance to see centre Jonathan Davies as he returns from long-term injury, and Bristol Bears No.10 Callum Sheedy may get some involvement given that his club are now no longer on stand-by to contest the English Premiership final.

For Rees, though, the match represents an opportunity to see what his old pupil Jenkins can bring to the table on the coaching front.

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The appointment of Jenkins was not a shock, he says, because, like Warburton before him, Jenkins offers a wealth of experience the other coaches can plunder.

“The appointment of Gethin was not a surprise to me at all,” adds Rees.

“He’s an ambitious man and we’ve been really lucky to have him for two years.

“Wayne Pivac will be sucking Gethin dry for all the knowledge and experience he’s got. He’s earned the right as a coach to be there.


“This role is a technical role which I think is perfect for Gethin and he’ll add real value. He’ll also learn on the job behind the scenes.

“He won’t get exposed and he’ll be protected. He’ll be a huge addition to Wayne Pivac’s backroom team.”

Sat – 7.30pm: S4C – Clwb Rygbi  – France v Wales

Join the Clwb Rygbi team for live coverage of the international rugby friendly match between France and Wales, which is being played at the Stade de France, Paris. Kick off 8.00pm.

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