Euro winner Jenkins ready for Lions challenge

Having become only the ninth Welshman to pick up a Heineken Cup winners medal, Gethin Jenkins is now getting ready for his next challenge - holding on to his British & Irish Lions Test spot. [more]

Euro winner Jenkins ready for Lions challenge

Having become only the ninth Welshman to pick up a Heineken Cup winners medal, Gethin Jenkins is now getting ready for his next challenge – holding on to his British & Irish Lions Test spot.

The man who led Wales to their 30-3 RBS 6 Nations title clinching victory over England came on for the final 20 minutes to sure up the Toulon scrum as the mega-rich French side beat ASM Clermont Auvergne 16-15 in Dublin.

It meant Jenkins, who is returning to Cardiff Blues next season after only a year away in France, beat fellow 2009 Lions tourist and Clermont full back Lee Byrne to the honour of following Tony Rees (Brive 1997), Ieuan Evans, Nathan Thomas and Richard Wesbster (Bath 1998), Allan Bateman and Andy Newman (Northampton Saints 2000), Rob Howley (London Wasps 2004) and Gareth Thomas (Toulouse 2005) as the latest Welsh player to scoop the top prize in European club rugby.

Toulon’s next step is to meet reigning champions Toulouse in a re-match of last season’s French Championship final in Friday night’s semi-final, with Jenkins expected to play a part in that game but not a possible Heineken Cup final return with Clermont should they reach the Top 14 final on June 1.

Jenkins will bid ‘adieu’ to his Toulon team mates after the semi-final and link up with the Lions to prepare for a third tour. He will leave with them for Hong Kong next week and be available for the opening fixture against the Barbarians in Hong Kong in 12 days time.

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“It is all sorted and I’ve given the Lions my word that I will go with them. The hard work starts when we get out there and it is going to be a tough battle,” said Jenkins.

“The goal is to start in the Tests. But there is a lot of competition and there are some younger players than me available in Cian Healy and Mako Vunipola.

“I’ve had three starts since the 6 Nations, which is probably similar to the Welsh boys, although in the big games I’ve been on the bench and coming on for final 20 minutes. I certainly enjoyed the last 20 minutes in the final.

“It was good to get on there and play a part in the game even though I didn’t touch the ball. But it will be great to go out with the Lions as a Heineken Cup winner – it’s a good feeling.

“We worked hard for this and it had been a tough week in the build up. We were really talking about winning Europe and we were perhaps struggling after 60 minutes, so to come out on top and win it is a great achievement.

“I tried for 10 or 11 years to win the Heineken Cup with the Celtic Warriors and the Blues and then in one season at Toulon in happened. But when you look around at the team we’ve got there are world-class players.”

Ironically, Jenkins had played in the Blues side that beat Toulon in the Amlin Challenge Cup final in Marseille in 2010 and with his Heineken Cup final win at the weekend he has become the first Welsh player since Howley (London Wasps 2003 and 2004) to win both European titles.

“It was either me or Lee Byrne to join the Welsh list of Heineken Cup winners and I know that Lee was gutted at the end. We knew we had the players there to turn things around and in the last three games we ground out victories.

“I haven’t played as much as I would have liked to have done this season, but I’m glad to go out on a high. Things have changed a lot in Cardiff Blues and the fact Matthew Rees is joining them was part of the reason I decided to come back – it will be good to link up with him again.”

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