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The greatest looseheads of all time: Gethin Jenkins

Gethin Jenkins of Wales Rugby World

Gethin Jenkins packed down in the Wales front row 126 times - their record cap holder - the loosehead prop is one of the greatest to wear the No 1 jersey


Major teams: Pontypridd, Celtic Warriors, Cardiff Blues, Toulon
Country: Wales
Test span: 2002-2016
Wales caps: 126 (90 starts)
Lions caps: 5 (5 starts)
Test points: 20 (4T)

It seems that the vast majority of compliments directed towards Gethin Jenkins come with a caveat. Rob Howley, Warren Gatland’s right-hand man, gives a taste of the trend.

“I won’t say he has an outstanding personality. He is a grumpy so-and-so,” explained the former scrum-half on the eve of Jenkins’s 100th Test in March 2014. “But when I look back on my coaching career, I will be happy that I coached one of the best front-rowers that has played.”

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Gareth Rogers came up through the youth ranks at Pontypridd alongside the man known as ‘Melon’, and offered similar sentiment.

“Sixteen years after we first met, I’m still finding it hard to believe that the burger-eating, cider-swilling monster I used to pack down with is Wales’ record cap-holder.”

The praise may be laced with humour. However, in rugby terms, Jenkins is truly revered. Having made his Wales debut against Romania in 2002, he featured at the 2003 World Cup and was an integral cog of the 2005 Grand Slam.

Charging down Ronan O’Gara before kicking ahead and scoring after a 40-metre sprint, he sent the Millennium Stadium into raptures and set up a 32-20 win over Ireland.

Mobility and awareness, as well as effective industry at the breakdown, characterised his contributions and two more Six Nations clean sweeps arrived in 2008 and 2012. He made three Test starts on the difficult 2005 Lions tour of New Zealand but was a stand-out of the 2009 voyage to South Africa before a fractured eye socket in the second Test ended his trip.

Jenkins captained his country as they thrashed England 30-3 to take the 2013 Six Nations and usurped fly-half Stephen Jones as the most capped Welshman against Scotland 12 months later.

In terms of domestic competition, Cardiff Blues gave the prop his all-important breakthrough and though he moved to Toulon for two seasons – coming off the bench in the 2013 Heineken Cup final victory over Clermont – Jenkins returned to the Arms Park after just one year on the French Riviera.

To find out who made the list of the greatest looseheads to play the game, click here.

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