Jenkins eyes hat-trick of Grand Slams
March 14, 2012
Jenkins was part of Wales Grand Slam winning team in 2008 as well as 2005 © Getty Images
Gethin Jenkins has urged Wales to "drive it home" on Saturday and sweep the Six Nations honours board for a third time in eight seasons.
And if Triple Crown holders Wales make it a case of mission accomplished, Jenkins would achieve arguably the most coveted hat-trick in Welsh sport - three Grand Slams. Jenkins, along with current colleagues Adam Jones and Ryan Jones, was part of Wales' 2005 and 2008 Grand Slam successes. But he believes there is a slightly different feel accompanying the bid for this season's Six Nations title on a day when 250,000 people are expected to cram Cardiff's city centre streets.
"In 2005, probably because we hadn't won it (Grand Slam) for so long, it was just that little bit more of an occasion than in 2008," Wales prop Jenkins said. "Not taking anything away from 2008, but the whole atmosphere of 2005 was that much different because nobody had been there for 27 years since Wales last won the Grand Slam.
"In 2008, we had new coaches that had just come in and we weren't really expected to do anything in that tournament. But we just gradually built the momentum, and we were really confident we were going to win the final game (against France).
"We've been favourites in the last two games we have played this season, and it is not often you can say about a Wales team, not when I have been involved, anyway. In the past, we haven't been favourites, we've come under the radar to win those Grand Slams, although I don't think I would ever say we were favourites against France."
The Wales squad enjoyed a day off on Wednesday before reassembling on Thursday, when coach Warren Gatland will name his starting line-up to face France. Gatland's only anticipated change from the side that beat Italy last Saturday is skipper Sam Warburton's return at openside flanker, provided he shakes off a knee problem.
"The main thing is blocking out anything in the exterior," added Jenkins, assessing the chaotic nature of Grand Slam build-up weeks. "Twice I have been involved in previous Grand Slams, the week has just flown by. It is not until a couple of months after that you realise how big a deal it was and how much was actually on the game.
"The week takes care of itself. You are worried about your own job and making sure on the day you perform. They are six days you have got to savour. It's a short turnaround from last weekend, so we have really got to get ourselves mentally and physically ready."
Saturday's game was being billed as a potential Grand Slam showdown only a few weeks ago, but France slipped off the pace after drawing at home with Ireland and then losing to England in Paris. But Jenkins said of Les Bleus: "They consistently turn up and beat some of the best sides in the world.
"They can play great rugby at times, and the loss they had (against England) is only going to spur them on to come over and play well against us. We know exactly how tough a challenge it is going to be, and how good they are. They've got players who can break you at any time in the game.
"We've had a good bit of momentum from the World Cup, and now it comes down to one big game, and we need really to drive it home and get a win."
It will be a red-letter day for one member of the Wales front-row even before kick-off, with hooker Matthew Rees poised to win his 50th cap. The feat comes after a demoralising chapter in Rees' career that saw him miss last autumn's successful World Cup campaign due to a neck injury that required surgery.
"I felt sorry for Matthew the way it all happened to him before the World Cup," Jenkins added. "I remember at our pre-World Cup training camp in Poland he couldn't sleep at night because of his injury. He was rolling around in his bed, he was in so much pain.
"I was glad he had the operation in the end, and he has come back really strongly. It is nice to see him back in the starting line-up. Someone sent me a picture the other day of us playing together for Treorchy, so it shows how long we have been around, but I think I have definitely aged better!"
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