New Zealand v Wales: Long seasons hard on players, says Neil Jenkins

By Owen RawlingsBBC Wales Sport in Dunedin, New Zealand
Neil Jenkins
Neil Jenkins won 87 caps for Wales between 1991 and 2002
New Zealand v Wales (third Test)
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin Date: Saturday, 25 June 2016 Kick-off: 08:35 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, the BBC Sport app, Connected TV, and live text commentary on the BBC Sport website.

Skills coach Neil Jenkins says the demands being placed on rugby players are "tough" as Wales prepare for their final Test in New Zealand, 54 weeks after their season began.

Wales started training for last year's World Cup on 15 June 2015 and play in Dunedin on Saturday before a break.

World Rugby wants to introduce a streamlined global season to safeguard players against injury from overwork.

"It's the modern game - it's tough, there's no doubting that," he said.

Wales' summer fixtures:
11 June: New Zealand 39-21 Wales (Auckland)
14 June: Chiefs 40-7 Wales (Hamilton)
18 June: New Zealand 36-22 Wales (Wellington)
25 June: New Zealand (Dunedin)

Saturday's game will be Wales' 18th since August 2015, a run which started with three World Cup warm-ups before five matches at the World Cup between September and October.

Warren Gatland's side played five Six Nations games in February and March, followed by five summer fixtures.

Wales' players also played club rugby in the 2015-16 season when they were not on international duty, with the Pro12 domestic season ending in May.

Former Wales and British and Irish Lions fly-half Jenkins says it is difficult for players to be at their best at the end of such a long campaign.

"I think when you play a World Cup for the southern hemisphere guys generally they have a rest at the end of it whereas for our guys it's straight back into it, whether that be European Cup, Six Nations after it and obviously a summer tour," he said.

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"Likewise now for you guys, when you're coming up to us at the end, up to the northern hemisphere in November, it's not easy.

"It's quite tough to play for this length of the season and play at the levels that is expected of the players."

Wales, without a win over New Zealand since 1953, are looking to avoid a tour whitewash with the All Blacks having a decisive 2-0 series lead after last weekend's 36-22 victory in Wellington.

Gatland's side will have a break after the third Test match in Dunedin - the next internationals are in November, though the 2016-17 Pro12 season starts in September.

Dan Biggar
Fly-half Dan Biggar has played 31 games for club and country in 2015-16

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont has made a global calendar one of his priorities and is hoping to move the Six Nations to April as a means of reducing some of the stress on northern hemisphere players.

Italy coach Conor O'Shea has previously said he is "hugely worried" about the pressure that players and their bodies are put under.

But Jenkins feels there is still plenty of work to be done before a synchronised world rugby calendar is introduced.

"Global season? Maybe that will happen, who knows," he said. "There's a lot of restructuring, a lot of talk I'm sure to go on to finalise that."

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