WORLD rugby’s most capped prop has warned Welsh rookie Rob Evans that he is “as hungry as ever to pull that Welsh jersey on”.
Gethin Jenkins, who has earned 126 test caps, has revealed his desire to win back the No 1 shirt that has been his for almost a generation.
“I’m still as hungry as ever to put that Welsh jersey on,” said the former Wales captain.
“You never like losing your jersey.
“After a day or two you have to get over it and get behind the guy who is in the shirt.
“But it still hasn’t stopped my driving hunger to be in that loose-head shirt.”
However, despite the three times Grand Slam winner’s competitive nature, he was full of praise for the man who has stepped in.
Quite simply Scarlets prop Rob Evans has been a revelation in his first two Six Nations starts, dispelling any worries that Wales would struggle without Jenkins.
Jenkins said: “Rob has been outstanding in the first two games. He’s a confident boy and shown that with the way he’s played.
“He’s still young at international level but he’s learning every week.
“He takes stuff on board, he’s a strong scrummager and he carries very well around the field.
“He’s only going to get better and that’s good for Wales that they have someone coming through who will hopefully be there for the next 10 years.”
It could be argued that Jenkins has re-defined the role of a front row forward.
Historically, the role of a Northern Hemisphere prop has mostly been limited to scrummaging, with mobility around the field not common.
Yet here was a prop who refused to accept such constraints, with Jenkins’ work rate and remarkable footballing ability marking him out as an unique talent.
His freakish fitness levels once led former Welsh openside flanker Martyn Williams to describe the Pontypridd product as a back-row forward trapped in a prop’s body.
Fitting then that Jenkins was the one asked for a solution to Wales’ struggles at the breakdown.
“We haven’t had as much joy as perhaps we would have liked at the breakdown, but I think the refereeing has been quite a bit different to what we’ve had in the past,” claimed Jenkins.
“I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, I’m just saying that defensively it’s been quite hard to get in there and get turnovers.
“But the boys who are in there, the back-rowers and the front five are working very hard on different techniques to try and improve on that.
“I think all teams are the same.
“Everyone is looking for ways to get one up on the opposition.
“We do a lot of stuff with Shaun (Edwards) to try and improve that area, and whatever personnel are in we all work hard to try and slow that ball down, so that we can get into our defensive line.”
So what does the future hold for the five times capped British Lion?
“I’ve had plenty of dialogue with Gats (Warren Gatland) about where I’m going to go over the next year so my mind-set changed,” said Jenkins.
“That’s probably going to be too far for me, the World Cup,
“That hasn’t really entered my thinking.
“When the time comes, I’ll do that [retire] but at the moment I’m just concentrating on playing week in, week out for the region and playing well.”