Today, being the 4th November 2018, Gethin Jenkins aka nicknamed Melon in rugby circles will play his final game in professional rugby for Cardiff Blues against Zebre.
Gethin has finally called it a day down to an ongoing issue with his knee but for the last few years has had issues which have curtailed appearances on a rugby field, his calves, ankle and shoulders have all caused him problems but it is the knee which has finally brought the curtain down on a fantastic decorated career at the very top of rugby union.
And lets us have a look at the numbers on his career; 129 Welsh internationals, the greatest number of caps in Welsh history as well as the World’s most capped prop. 5 British and Irish Lions Test Matches over 3 tours. 4 Six Nations Titles including 3 Grand Slams. 2 European Cup Trophies, with Cardiff Blues and Toulon (Amlin Cup and Heineken Cup respectively) and an EDF Energy Cup winner. Simply an amazing collection of accolades over a glittering 18-year professional career.
Llantwit Fardre born Gethin first burst onto the scene in professional rugby with Pontypridd in the year 2000, and I remember very early in his career seeing Gethin playing against Cardiff and leaving the stadium that day thinking I would have to keep an eye on this lad. The ginger-haired loosehead prop was everywhere on the pitch causing disruption at breakdowns, earning turnovers and some of the huge hits he put in on the Cardiff ball carriers made me wince on the terraces, he looked a real player in the making and that potential developed into a player who at his very best, was for a number of years the best loosehead prop in the world, and I say that with all confidence and conviction. Sport is all about opinions, but for me, he stood above the others in his position as the very best.
In 2002, he made his international debut for Wales against Romania, and quickly made the number 1 shirt his own possession, with the odd run out at tighthead prop for Wales more down to injuries in that position and Duncan Jones also being very capable loosehead prop at the time, allowing for Wales to shift Gethin over. When Wales won the Grand Slam in 2005 their first in 27 years, Gethin played a huge part in that success, his general play that year was outstanding, and in the final game against Ireland who will forget his charge down on Ronan O’Gara’s attempted clearance kick, and then kicking the ball on over the try line, showing good pace and then falling on the ball over the try line. A try he fully deserved. That year he travelled with the British and Irish Lions and played in all 3 tests against New Zealand. In a hugely disappointing tour from a Lions perspective, Gethin left New Zealand as one of the few Lions players with his reputation intact as a rugby player. In one of the tests, I can recall him on a number of occasions being the first player up on a Lions kick chase, challenging in the air on an up and under, or being the first player to make the tackle when New Zealand ran back a long clearing kick from the Lions. His work rate as always was simply incredible.
Into 2007 and Gethin received the honour of captaining Wales against South Africa a role he took on a number of occasions. Throughout his career, Gethin always has led from the front and has high expectations of his teammates. He has earned the reputation of being a bit of a miserable so and so, but as covered off in the book “Reasons 2 Smile” which I co-wrote with Matthew Rees, Gethin sets such high standards and if he feels those standards are not being reached then he is not happy, he is striving to be the best he can be and expects that everyone should do the same.
As a player then his strengths were numerous, but if I were to select a few then it would be his ability at the breakdown. It really was like having an extra back rower on the pitch when Gethin played. During the years when for Wales you had Dan Lydiate chopping opposition ball carriers down at the ankles on the gain line or behind, you then had Sam Warburton or Gethin there to turn the ball over and this happened so many times. Gethin’s defence has always been outstanding, very rarely did he miss a tackle and with his athletic ability he was able to make tackles in the wider areas against opposing backs. Lastly, I would select his greatest strength being his rugby intelligence. He read the game so well when to commit to a breakdown, when to compete and when to stand off and wait for the next phase of play and reset the defence. Gethin will be going into coaching following his retirement with Cardiff Blues Academy and will look to pass on his rugby knowledge to the young up and coming players and no doubt will be striving to make those players the very best they can be setting high standards. It would not surprise me to see Gethin quickly move through the coaching levels and I would not be shocked in the next few years to see him as a Defence Coach at a very high level in the professional game.
In summing up, Gethin Jenkins is one of the all-time greats for Wales. In my view the best loosehead prop who has ever played for Wales. A player who was respected all around the world by other international teams and fans. Toulon paid big money to acquire his services in 2012, during the period that with their chequebook they could attain pretty much any player they wanted for any position and they chose Gethin, which just illustrates how good he was. He only played one season with Toulon, but in that season, he won the Heineken Cup and he is only one of nine players from Wales to do that. He was a remarkable player and certainly deserves a big send-off at the Cardiff Arms Park today and thanked for all his efforts. Diolch Gethin.
I could not write an article by Gethin without sharing in my view his best ever try. 2011 World Cup against Namibia. Not a bad effort regardless of the number on the back of your shirt but even more so for a prop!
Featured Picture Image Credit: http://www.walesonline.co.uk