Wales: Gethin Jenkins rues last year’s Grand Slam miss

Dylan Coetzee

Wales forward coach Gethin Jenkins before the Summer Series match at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff. Picture date: Saturday July 3, 2021.

Gethin Jenkins has said he suffered from sleepless nights after Wales’ Grand Slam hopes were smashed by France last year.

Wales still went on to claim the Six Nations only a week later but it was the narrow 32-30 loss to France that dashed their Grand Slam dream.

Different fortunes

The tables have turned for this season as Wales welcome France to Cardiff this weekend.

Victory for Les Bleus would leave them needing to beat England in Paris next week to land a first title and Grand Slam since 2010.

“It was bittersweet wasn’t it? I probably didn’t sleep for three or four days after that game,” Wales assistant coach and defence specialist Jenkins said.

“It was one which got away from us. There is a little bit of a driver in it, but I think they are a little bit of a different team to that now.

“It was the big occasion where we just came up short. It was a ride we went on, and they managed to pip us at the end.”

Although Wales have lost only one of the last five games against Les Bleus in the Welsh capital, France will arrive as clear favourites.

They have defeated Italy, Ireland and Scotland to take charge of this season’s championship, combining relentlessly-physical play by their forwards with stardust provided through captain Antoine Dupont, among others.

Jenkins added: “They went to Scotland and put them away quite easily in the last game, so I wouldn’t say they are feeling the pressure too much.

“They’ve got so many quality players that we have to be really on top of our game to compete with them. I feel we can, but we’ve got to be right up there physically and mentally.

“They have got threats everywhere. They’ve got massive muscle in the forwards, while they’ve got (Antoine) Dupont, (Romain) Ntamack, and some power in the centre as well.

“There are a few different things we will be looking at to try and get on top of them, but you can’t fully replicate what a game will bring in terms of intensity, fatigue, thought under pressure.”

France’s defence is now in the hands of Shaun Edwards, who had great success as part of Warren Gatland’s Wales coaching team that masterminded Six Nations title and Grand Slam successes, plus a World Cup semi-final appearance.

Former Wales prop Jenkins, who won 129 caps, featured as a player under that group, but he now opposes Edwards on the coaching side.

“Shaun has been coaching for a long time,” Jenkins said. “I would like to think I would be where he is now in 10-15 years.

“He has been involved in a lot of environments, a lot of tough international games where he has prepared a team and you can see his imprint coming through.

“There is definitely a lot of stuff that I’ve soaked up off him over the years, but I also like to think there is stuff I add to it in terms of being myself.

“You can’t take away from what Shaun has done, and he continues to be successful with it.”

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