Jenkins wary of classy Wallabies
May 29, 2012
Berrick Barnes is one of the Wallabies' best players, says Neil Jenkins © Getty Images
Neil Jenkins believes Wales will face the current "second-best side" in world rugby when they tackle Australia Down Under.
It is 43 years since Wales beat the Wallabies on Australian soil, but that is the challenge awaiting them in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney between June 9 and 23. Although Australia will be without dynamic backs Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor through injury, while fly-half playmaker Quade Cooper has only recently started his comeback from surgery, Jenkins still expects a fearsome challenge.
"They are a tough side," Wales skills coach Jenkins said. "The reality is that we are playing the second-best side in the world, as far as I am concerned. I don't think they are too far off the All Blacks at this moment in time. They play some fantastic rugby and have a lot of good players.
"Someone like Berrick Barnes can slot in at 10, no problem. For me, he is one of their best players. He is outstanding. Adam Ashley-Cooper can play at 15, so there are lots of players who can slot in. No matter what Aussie side takes the pitch against us, it will be a pretty good one.
"I thought Berrick Barnes was outstanding against us when he went to 10 in the World Cup third/fourth play-off game. I find him a very influential player for them - he reads the game incredibly well. He is a very good kicker and distributor, and he understands the game very well. I would be surprised if he doesn't play."
A 38-man Wales squad continued preparations on Tuesday for the Tests against Australia, plus next Saturday's Millennium Stadium appointent with the Barbarians, when flanker Martyn Williams is expected to win his 100th cap. Caretaker coach Rob Howley, boss for the tour while Warren Gatland continues recuperating from two broken heels at home in New Zealand, will name his team on Wednesday to face the Barbarians.
Scarlets fullback Liam Williams, Ospreys centre Ashley Beck and 19-year-old Cardiff Blues wing Harry Robinson are potential Test debutants in a Baa-baas fixture that last year marked World Cup talisman Toby Faletau's Wales entry. Howley will also confirm the group of players heading to Australia on Thursday with defence coach Shaun Edwards for pre-first Test training in Brisbane, where they will be joined by a 19-strong contingent early next week.
Wales have been bolstered by their sizeable Ospreys contingent arriving fresh from Sunday's stunning RaboDirect PRO12 title-clinching victory over European champions Leinster in Dublin. And Jenkins added: "It was an outstanding achievement after what was a fantastic game.
"We always want our regions to do well, and for one of them to be in the final and beat the European champions on their own patch, I think that says it all.
"It's a fantastic achievement, and it certainly gives us a boost. It can only have a positive knock-on effect for us. You never seem to feel tired when you are winning." One of the Ospreys stars - wing Shane Williams - marked his final game before retirement for the Swansea-based outfit with two tries, including a critical score two minutes from time.
Williams, Wales' record Test try-scorer, is set to end a glittering career by playing for the Barbarians on Saturday, with Jenkins paying a glowing tribute both to him and Martyn Williams.
"They are both amazing players," he said. "Martyn deserves his 100 caps, which is probably the minimum he deserves. He has been an outstanding player for Wales, the Lions, Pontypridd, Cardiff - he has pretty much done everything.
"And Shane just writes script after script. I hope he doesn't score on Saturday, although I am sure he will be there or thereabouts!
"Both of them are legends of the game, and we should be very proud of them and what they have achieved. I think Saturday is going to be a pretty tough game.
"Even though the Barbarians play off-the-cuff rugby and it is very difficult to prepare for, we have to focus on ourselves and make sure we are ready. I played for the Barbarians, and while they maybe don't take it too seriously in the week, as game time gets closer you want to back yourself.
"You back your own skills, and they will be ready to rock, come game time on Saturday."
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