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Neil Jenkins Still Gets A Kick Out Of Warren Gatland . . . And Wants It For Three More Matches

Neil Jenkins wants to extend Warren Gatland’s coaching reign with Wales for three more matches – and one World Cup trophy – before the New Zealander leaves his job after 12 years.

Gatland’s time as coach will end on Sunday if the Six Nations champions lose to World Cup quarter-final opponents France in Oita.

But Jenkins – who as assistant coach and kicking specialist has been with Gatland every step of the way – wants to prolong the long goodbye to the maximum.

“It’s common sense – you either turn up or you are going home,” said Jenkins. “There is no other way about it – it’s plain and simple, really.”

Jenkins – still way clear of anyone else as Wales’ leading all-time points scorer – has his sights set on global glory after making respective semi-final and quarter-final exits in 2011 and 2015 as coach.

And he is confident Gatland can help a coaching group that breaks up after the tournament to achieve one last hurrah.

“His record speaks for itself as in the results, the success, the togetherness of the team and the squad and the staff. ‘Gats’ is not just an incredible rugby coach, he is an incredible person as well.

“He brings so much to this environment, it’s unbelievable, really.

“It would be incredibly sad to see him go, obviously. It would be nice if we could give ourselves another fortnight in Japan for him and for everyone involved.

“‘Gats’ is the same, no matter who we are playing, week to week. It is probably us he has to calm down and the rest of the coaches.

“He is an incredibly smart rugby man and knows the game inside out, and we will be prepared for Sunday.

“He’s been here for 12 years, and whatever he does, everyone looks up to him and understands why he does it.

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“He’s a very smart operator, he does things for a reason and there is always a plan behind things.”

Wales continued their preparations for Les Bleus in Beppu on Wednesday, with centre Jonathan Davies, fly-half Dan Biggar and wing George North all firmly on course to be available following recent knocks.

Jenkins added: “Everyone is getting there. There are a still a few bumps and bruises from a few of the guys when you play the amount of games you have in the period we have.

“Everyone seems okay, and it’s a huge week for us and we are looking forward to it.

“Last time we played them in a World Cup in 2011 they turned us over in a semi-final in a very tight game.

“It will be a very tough game on Sunday, and a very tight one. We are looking forward to it, and it’s why you play rugby to play these type of games.

Wales suffered an agonising 9-8 World Cup loss to France – captain Sam Warburton was sent off after just 17 minutes – eight years ago.

But Jenkins said: “What happened, happened. France beat us on the day and they were the better side on the day.

“It was a very tight game, it could have gone either way and it went their way on the day.

“You can’t dwell on what has happened. You have to move on, and Sunday is a different game with different players.

“The next game is Sunday, it’s against France, it’s the quarter-final of the World Cup, it becomes a huge game for both sides. We need to win it to move on.”

Wales full-back Liam Williams is confident that Wales can not only beat France, but is backing them to go all the way.

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The Saracens star – already a Six Nations, European club and English domestic champion in 2019 – has good reason to feel this is his year.

“There is only one thing we think we can do and that is to win it,” the Wales full-back said of their World Cup chances.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve got the easy route but we’ve got France next and we need to beat them to be looking at the bigger picture.”

The France duo Louis Picamoles and Gael Fickou have admitted that Les Bleus are planning an all-out pace assault in their quarter-final.

“To put them in difficulty we need to be fast and win the contacts,” veteran No 8 Picamoles said.

‘If we respect the structures and the work we’ve done in training, it will be harder for the Welsh to slow the game down. And that’s where they might have some issues. That’s what we have to concentrate on on.”

Echoing Picamoles’ sentiments, centre Fickou revealed the theme of need for speed has also been passed on to the backline.

“Speed will undoubtedly be the key to the match. The moments when we’ve been unsure, when we’ve slowed the game down, have been when we didn’t win our duels,” Fickou admitted.

“As soon as you have speed, win your duels and mix up your running and kicking game to drive back your opponent, any team will be in difficulty. Because that becomes tricky to defend. I think we can go on and win it.”


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