Saturday, May 29, 2010

Six Nations: Gethin Jenkins injury blow for Wales

SHAUN EDWARDS last night put a brave face on the absence of Wales’ best forward Gethin Jenkins from their summer Tests, insisting it will open the door for somebody else to shine.

Jenkins aggravated a long-standing calf problem as the Blues charged to European glory with a stunning success over French big spenders Toulon in last Sunday’s final of the Amlin Challenge Cup.

Jenkins, who was Blues captain in Marseille and is revered by many as the best loosehead prop in the world, didn’t appear for the second half.

Ospreys reserve prop Craig Mitchell, who is on the stand-by list and has been training with coach Warren Gatland’s squad, would seem to be the front-runner to replace Jenkins in the 27-strong party.

Wales defence coach Edwards hinted that Jenkins’ Blues team mate John Yapp, and not Paul James – Jenkins’ replacement for much of the Six Nations after the calf trouble first struck – might wear the No 1 jersey against World Cup and Tri-Nations holders South Africa a week on Saturday.

“Any team that was to lose Gethin would be suffering a negative because of the fact it would be losing a lot of experience and a British Lions front-row player,” said the rugby league great.

“We all know Gethin’s capabilities, particularly in the loose, but, I’m a big believer in that when one door shuts for one person it opens for another.

“I’m sure, if the person coming in can possess the same attitude to training the other players have at the moment, we will have a very keen and committed loosehead.”

Jenkins fractured a cheekbone in the Lions’ brutal second Test with South Africa in Pretoria 11 months ago and missed the start of the season following shoulder surgery.

He was captain in place of the injured Ryan Jones when Wales concluded a disappointing autumn campaign with a thrashing against Australia in Cardiff.

But his Six Nations campaign was blighted by the calf trouble, which is understood to be caused by a toe problem.

“A prop puts his weight on through the toe at the scrummage and it’s led to Gethin getting problems with a calf,” explained Edwards.

“It’s a long-standing injury which seems to recur quite a lot.

“He needs four to six weeks out, which is particularly disappointing for Gethin.

“We would have liked him to have been fit for the tour of New Zealand and then have a rest, but the medics have said he’s got to have time off now.

“I’m sure, with the right direction and correct rest period, he will be jumping out of his skin come World Cup year.”

Centre James Hook and lock Luke Charteris have also been ruled out of the summer Tests through injury, while experienced scrum-half Dwayne Peel and veteran flanker Martyn Williams have been rested.

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