Wales suffer Jenkins injury blow
May 26, 2010
Jenkins poses with the European Challenge Cup following the Blues' victory over Toulon on Sunday © Getty Images
Gethin Jenkins has been ruled out of Wales' clash with South Africa next week and the two-Test New Zealand tour with a calf injury.
The Cardiff Blues prop, who went off during the Blues' Amlin Challenge Cup final victory over Toulon in Marseille two days ago, will be sidelined for four to six weeks and will therefore be unavailable for the Springboks clash in Cardiff (June 5) and the matches against New Zealand in Dunedin (June 19) and Hamilton (June 26).
Wales boss Warren Gatland has not yet decided on a squad replacement for the 29-year-old although Ospreys prop Craig Mitchell has been training with the squad. In Jenkins' absence, Paul James is set to start against the Springboks at the Millennium Stadium.
Centre James Hook and lock Luke Charteris are also out of the tour due to respective shoulder and neck problems, while scrum-half Dwayne Peel and flanker Martyn Williams will be rested.
"Unfortunately, Gethin has a long-standing injury which seems to be recurring quite a lot, and he is looking at four to six weeks out," said Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards. "Any team losing Gethin is going to be a negative thing. You are losing a British and Irish Lions front-row player - we all know Gethin's capabilities. But I am a big believer in that when one door shuts for one person, it opens for someone else.
"We've got a Test match in 10 days' time, and if we continue with the intensity we had in training today then it's going to be a rip-roaring affair. Today's training was as good as we've ever had - it was very encouraging."
Wales have only beaten South Africa once in their history - a 29-19 success 11 years ago when the partially-built Millennium Stadium staged its inaugural Test match. But they are likely to start as favourites, given the Springboks are without many front-line players, including most of their Bulls and Stormers contingent. The teams clash in this weekend's Super 14 final.
South Africa coach Peter de Villiers fields two Test debutants in wing Gio Aplon and flanker Francois Louw, while there are three more rookies on the bench. And de Villiers calls on just three starting XV survivors from last summer's Test series-clinching win against the British and Irish Lions in Pretoria - full-back Francois Steyn, fly-half Ruan Pienaar and skipper John Smit. It suggests Wales have an outstanding chance of emulating that 1999 success, but Edwards scoffs at any suggestion South Africa might be there for the taking.
"It is a while since we beat South Africa, and we want to make sure we are fully prepared and ready to go, come Saturday week," he added. "But I found it quite humourous when I heard South Africa had some 'second-string' players, and Butch James' name was mentioned.
"How could you call someone like Butch James (he starts in the centre against Wales), who is a World Cup winner, a second-string player? I don't think there is such a thing as a second-string Springboks team. It looks very strong on paper. They have got some very talented players, and we are treating it as a full-on Test match, which it is."
Edwards was part of the Lions coaching staff that plotted a memorable third Test win against South Africa in Johannesburg last June, an occasion when the tourists included several of the current Wales squad.
"I am sure we will recall that in our preparations," he said. "To win the third Test by such a convincing margin was probably beyond our wildest dreams really, but having said that, we are under no illusion about next week.After the Lions series last year, I thought the standard of rugby South Africa played - not only against the Lions - but then in the Tri-Nations later that summer was absolutely out of the top drawer. They are a formidable team."