Gethin Jenkins was a Modern Great: a Career Retrospective

15.02.2015. Edinburgh, Scotland. 6 Nations Championship. Scotland versus Wales. Wales's Gethin Jenkins disputes the tackle. (Photo by Gordon Bell/ActionPlus/Corbis via Getty Images)

Gethin Jenkins received 129 test caps for Wales during his storied career. He went on three British and Irish Lions tours, won three Grand Slams, four Six Nations titles, a Heineken Cup and two Challenge Cup titles.

Compiling a highlights reel any forward or, any back for that matter would be proud of. After the news of his retirement, Rhiannon Garth Jones takes a look at the career of a ‘modern great’.

Gethin Jenkins a Modern Great of Welsh Rugby

Jenkins announced he will retire after playing one final game in the Guinness Pro14 for Cardiff Blues. He explained the decision was because of a chronic knee-problem (that many ex-players will empathize with).

“The pain I have been experiencing from rugby, in my daily life, simply isn’t tolerable”.

Not only is the loosehead Wales’ most capped player, he is also the fourth-most capped player in rugby union history. His first cap came against Romania in 2002 and his last came in the 2016 victory over the Springboks, where he played a key role. In between that, he played for Wales in four World Cups.

Over the years, he made himself one of the finest loosehead props in the modern game. Jenkins has captained his country on many occasions, including the 2013 victory over England that led to his fourth 6 Nations title. He won the Heineken Cup with Toulon in 2013 and twice won the Challenge Cup with Cardiff Blues, in 2010 and 2018.

Jenkins will stay at the Blues, where he has spent most of his career. He will take up a coaching role with the academy, where the incredible amount of experience he has acquired will no doubt prove invaluable.

Redefining his position on the field

These days, fans are increasingly used to all-singing, all-dancing front-rowers. Mako Vunipola, Tadhg Furlong, Dane Coles, Malcolm Marx, Rob Evans… the list goes on. But, back in 2002, props didn’t do what Gethin Jenkins did. His scrummaging was sometimes criticised but he improved greatly over the years and could pack down on either side if necessary.

However, his work in the loose set the standard for modern forwards. He functioned like an extra flanker with his breakdown work and often showed astonishingly deft feet. When Steve Hansen left Wales for his beloved New Zealand in 2004, he was asked if there was any one player he would take with him. Gethin Jenkins was his pick for that one player. Since then, Jenkins has consistently shown why.

The ‘highlights reel’ of a Modern Great

Over a career spanning 18 years, as a player with such a broad skill-set, it’s no surprise that Gethin Jenkins has made quite the highlights reel. Here are just a few to treasure.

That try against Ireland in 2005

Wales won this game to pull off their first Grand Slam for 27 years. Mike Ruddock’s Wales team could be slightly ramshackle but they were also gloriously cavalier. Jenkins’ try epitomised their spirit: charging down a Ronan O’Gara kick, dribbling the ball to the try line, and slamming the ball down with a huge grin on his face.

Feet like a fly-half

There are actually quite a few examples of Jenkins’ kicking skills. His spiral kick to set Wales up for a try against Argentina in 2016 delighted fans. But a perfect demonstration of his skill-set came in Shane Williams’ last game for Wales. Not only did Jenkins turnover the ball, nullifying a promising Australian attack, but he then followed it up with a brilliant touch-finder.

Try of the RWC tournament

Dummying, sidestepping, running to the tryline, evading three tackles on the way, and bursting through an attempt to hold him up – this try has everything. Warren Gatland’s Wales team in the 2011 Rugby World Cup were a joy to watch. Yet again, Jenkins’ astonishing play in the loose was central to that. This effort was awarded Try of the Tournament, and it’s not hard to see why.

Gethin Jenkins: a GOAT contender?

Trying to compare and rank players across rugby history is always fun for fans. These things are always subjective, however, and, unsurprisingly, there isn’t often much agreement. Gethin Jenkins might not be the greatest loosehead prop in rugby union history, or Wales’ greatest ever player.

He is, however, a true modern great of the game.

Wales fans, and neutral observers have all been lucky to have been able to watch him play for such a long time. It seems a reasonable bet that plenty of people will be tuning into Gethin Jenkins’ final game against Zebre, hoping for one last bit of magic.

Cardiff Blues v Zebre – Sunday November 4. Cardiff Arms Park

“Main Photo:”Embed from Getty Images


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