Jenkins defends selection policy

Wales coach Gareth Jenkins has urged his side to give him a World Cup selection headache by performing as he believes they can to claim a historic victory at Telstra Stadium, Sydney on Saturday. [more]

Lions Australia Tour 2013

Wales coach Gareth Jenkins has urged his side to give him a World Cup selection headache by performing as he believes they can to claim a historic victory at Telstra Stadium, Sydney on Saturday.

Jenkins’ confidence belies the flak he and his squad have received from the Australian media, who have accused the tour party’s selection of disrespecting the Wallabies because 17 leading players were left at home to rest, recuperate and be ready to rumble at the autumn tournament.

Jenkins said: "I question the belief in Australia that we don’t have a strong team out here. We’ve got six British Lions and 15 guys who have played more than 20 times for Wales.

"I think this side is very competitive and very respectful to the Australians. I think we’re going to be competitive and we’ve come here to win two Test matches.

"I wonder if it’s a serious lack of knowledge or a press wind-up. I’m not sure, but I think we’ve respected Australia and the value of international rugby with the side we’ve brought here."

Google Ad Manager – In Article

He added: "I think this team is capable of winning."

The experience in the Wales team is plain for all to see.

Skipper Gareth Thomas earns his record 93rd Wales cap, Colin Charvis returns after 18 months in the wilderness to appear for the 85th time in the back-row and there are even three British and Irish Lions on the bench in Michael Owen, Gareth Cooper and Gavin Henson.

Australian-born Brent Cockbain is the sixth Lion in the party and he and Robert Sidoli reform the second-row partnership that served Wales so well when they won the 2005 Six Nations Grand Slam.

However, more crucially for Jenkins is that factor of World Cup places being up for grabs for those players who produce the goods in Sydney and next weekend in Brisbane. Those who do could find themselves lining up against the Wallabies when it really matters, during the World Cup pool stages at Millennium Stadium in September.

Jenkins said: "It’s a really strong selection, but more important than having experience is that there’s an incentive in the team. There’s a lot of players here having a fantastic opportunity to make a statement as far as the World Cup is concerned. There’s a big motivation in the group and it’s felt like that all week.

"Australia and ourselves know there’s a big game awaiting us in September. Between now and then we have things to do and questions to answer, but I do think these Test matches are going to be very competitive and mean a lot to both teams."

Stephen Larkham’s withdrawal with a hamstring strain forced a late Wallaby change with uncapped Sam Norton-Knight taking over.

But Jenkins says the similarity in their style of play means there will not be a change of game-plan, which already includes Australia’s poorly-regarded scrum as an obvious target.

"We know quite a bit about Sam Norton-Knight. He’s been an up-and-coming player for the last couple of years and there’s plenty of evidence of that in the footage we’ve got.

"But I do think that can be a blow to them and it’s a late withdrawal as well and let’s hope it works to our advantage.

"If you look at the fly-halves they are very similar and our game plan won’t need to change. It will definitely be our intention to play the Welsh way. A lot of things will decide how effective that is.

"It’s well known Australia have concerns about their scrum. But they’ve worked and I’ve noticed recently that there are big improvements in individuals and I think they are very capable and the scrum will be a deciding factor."

Previous story Aussies missing Larkham
Next story England get their Voyce back
Download