Wales and British & Irish Lions prop Gethin Jenkins has declared he is back to full fitness and ready to take on England and Argentina in the Rugby World Cup warm-up matches at the Millennium Stadium next month.
Jenkins underwent surgery on his foot earlier this year and had originally targeted an end-of-season comeback for his Region, Cardiff Blues.
The 76-times capped front row powerhouse missed his return-to-play date to continue his rehab but, despite the disappointment of an extended period on the side-lines, he insists he will be much better for it come RWC time.
“Coming back from injury is a frustrating time for any player and you have to tough it out mentally and keep telling yourself you will be back,” said Jenkins. But, if there is ever a good time to make your comeback, it’s probably now. The World Cup is just around the corner and in hindsight, although it was difficult being out, it was all part of the plan really, that I would time my return and be getting back into it now.”
Jenkins missed Wales’ 2011 6 Nations campaign and the summer fixture against the Barbarians in June and looked on as the likes of props Paul James (Ospreys) and Craig Mitchell (Exeter Chiefs) not only held the fort but impressed in the front row. So, Jenkins is now on a mission to regain match fitness in order to impress the coaches enough to be selected in their 30-man RWC squad.
“I’ve done all the fitness work necessary and it will stand me in good stead, but now I have to get back in the side,” said Jenkins. “Paul and Craig have both done well and it will be a good thing for the squad if I can create some more competition for that starting spot. Those are the guys in possession and it’s up to the likes of myself and Adam (Jones) to wrestle the shirts from them now.
“All the jerseys are up for grabs, which is going to make those games against England and Argentina all the more interesting. Obviously I’ll be looking to get some game time and I just have to hope I do enough to impress the coaches if I get my chance, but the first priority now is to get back on the training camp next week in Poland.”
Jenkins, alongside the rest of the extended 42-man training squad, have returned today from a 10 day fitness and skills camp in Spala, Poland. The squad will return to the Olympic training venue, where players utilise Cryotherapy chambers which aid recovery and allow them to train twice as often in a single day, for another 10-day stint from 16 July. But Jenkins knows proving his fitness is only half the battle in terms of his RWC ambitions.
“It’s important for our final preparation, to get a place in that squad and to get a place on the plane, to do well in Poland,” added Jenkins. “We want to be at our fittest and most powerful, but we also know that unless we can play rugby as well it won’t matter a jot.
“The camp has been tough mentally and physically, but the next challenge will then be to perform on the pitch. We will be strong and fit, but we need to convert that into performing in games. There is only so much you can learn about a rugby player from a fitness test and these games against England and Argentina will be the opportunity for the coaches to assess the players in a match. Those ‘Tests’ will be the acid tests. Hopefully, if I get my chance, it will go well and I can go to the World Cup, but I’m not taking anything for granted.”