Jenkins expects Wallaby explosion

Neil Jenkins expects the Qantas Wallabies to come out breathing fire and brimstone in Melbourne on Saturday in much the same way as the Springboks exploded onto the field for the second Test in Durban 16 years ago. [more]

Jenkins expects Wallaby explosion

Neil Jenkins expects the Qantas Wallabies to come out breathing fire and brimstone in Melbourne on Saturday in much the same way as the Springboks exploded onto the field for the second Test in Durban 16 years ago.

On that occasion the former world record points scorer was playing at full back for the Lions and preparing to kick them to a series victory with five penalties to take his tally in two matches to 30 points.

These days Jenkins is responsible for coaching the Lions’ kickers and has done such a good job that Leigh Halfpenny, Owen Farrell, Johnny Sexton and Stuart Hogg are currently running at 84% success rate. Halfpenny kicked five out of six in the first Test in Brisbane, while the Wallabies had five misses in a 23-21 defeat.

So, what similarities does the Lions’ record points scorer in a Test series with 41 see between 1997 and 2013 – and what does he remember mot about that great day in British and Irish rugby history?

“It was them running out – that was a real eye-opener for me because I thought they were going to run through the stand,” said Jenkins.

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“We’ve seen how much it meant to South Africa. It was incredible really and to get through that day was just an incredible achievement in terms of how they played, the three tries they scored and for us to hang on and win. Our defence was incredible that day.

“Even though we conceded three tries, it was still pretty good. I don’t see Saturday being any different – they are going to come at us with everything.

“It’s obviously the last chance for them to keep the series going. It’s going to be a huge game with huge intensity and massive pressure.”

In another game of tiny margins, perhaps the edge that Jenkins gives to his goal kickers through his presence at training and on the field of play, as opposed to the Australian’s part-time kicking coach Braam van Straaten helping out his players over Skype from his South African home, will tip the scales in favour of the Lions.

It is a system that has certainly paid rich dividends to date with all four goal kickers running at very high per centage success rates.

“It’s generally goal-kicking that wins or loses Test matches. We’ve seen already with the way things went last Saturday the importance of your kickers,” said Jenkins.

“Kicking is a huge part of the game, we all acknowledge that, and Leigh has been a tremendous kicker now for the past two years. He’s put a huge amount of work in and he’s pretty special in what he does.

“Personally, he’s a joy to work with and I’m really enjoying working with Owen (Farrell), Johnny (Sexton) and Hoggy’s (Stuart Hogg) doing good work now as well. Billy’s (Twelvetrees) arrived and become involved.

“The list gets bigger, which is good, and it’s certainly a great experience for myself, to be working with new people all the time. I tend to allow the guys to do what they do best.

“I stand and watch what they are doing, and if I think something needs to be said, then I go in and say it, whether it’s punting, restarts or any kind of kicking. But I’m not one for speaking for the sake of it, and people who know me will know that.

“These boys have worked incredibly hard since we got together six and a half weeks ago. I believe contact is very important.

“We have a bit of banter but, generally, I try to stay out of the way and let the guys do what they do best. But it’s important to stand behind your kicker, watch closely at how he’s shaping and how things are going.

“You saw a kick on Saturday when the tee moved a little and Leigh pushed the ball to the right, but these boys recover quite quickly and move on to the next kick.

“The standards of these boys is massive. Someone like Jonny Wilkinson, for example, his work ethic is ridiculous. That is why he’s achieved what he has. Leigh is not too far away from that level. He works incredibly hard at his game.

“He probably doesn’t stay out there as long as Jonny, but he works incredibly hard. He’ll focus on perfecting every spot and won’t move on until he is happy.

“Leigh works equally hard on other aspects of his game, his aerial stuff, his carrying and lines of running, and even drop-goals, he’s always trying out long-range drop-goals.”

For Jenkins, Saturday’s game under the closed roof of the Etihad Stadium will be a return to the venue of his last Test appearance for the Lions. Having beaten Australia in the first Test in Brisbane – sound familiar? – the Lions led 11-6 at half-time in Melbourne before finally losing 35-14 and losing their grip on the series.

“There were a couple of mistakes, the odd interception and the injury to Richard Hill in the second half of that game,” recalled Jenkins.

“They they went through a couple of gears and found their form a little bit, to be honest. Obviously things evened out in the third and it was a pretty close Test match. “We played some excellent rugby and we’ve been watching it while we’ve been out here on Fox Sports. But they also played some excellent rugby, took their chances when they came at the start of the second half and got it to 21-11.

“It was always going to be tough for the Lions to get back then. But again the way they performed in the first half the Lions should have been out of sight.”

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