Ellis Jenkins eager to take Wales chance on summer tour

Ellis Jenkins was part of the Cardiff Blues side that won the 2018 European Challenge Cup
Ellis Jenkins was part of the Cardiff Blues side that won the 2018 European Challenge Cup
Wales v South Africa
Venue: RFK Stadium, Washington DC Date: Saturday, 2 June Kick-off: 22:00 BST
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Ellis Jenkins is determined to press his case for 2019 World Cup selection during Wales' summer tour.

The Cardiff Blues open-side, 25, has been picked to co-captain Wales along with Cory Hill by coach Warren Gatland.

Wales will play South Africa in Washington, USA, on 2 June before travelling to Argentina for two Tests on the following weekends.

"They don't come around often and when you get the opportunity, you're going to have to take it," said Jenkins.

"Because there are other times where campaigns will start and you may not be injured but you might not be in form.

"Gats [Gatland] spoke about there being some players that are in a good position for the World Cup, based on their form over the last three years and their qualities as players.

"But, as we saw at the last World Cup, things can change up until the last minute. You had boys going down in the warm-up games and even the first game of the World Cup.

"It's about trying to get your name in the picture and working your way up the pecking order as much as you can I suppose."

Wales are without injured back-rows Sam Warburton, the British and Irish Lions captain, Josh Navidi - both Jenkins' Blues team-mates - and Aaron Shingler, while Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau have been rested.

Josh Navidi is forced off injured during Cardiff Blues' Challenge Cup final win over Gloucester
Josh Navidi was one of Wales' standout players in the Six Nations and autumn Tests but misses the summer tour with a dislocated shoulder

That gives Jenkins and the other players on tour a chance to put down a marker for becoming a permanent fixture in the Wales team, especially with the 2019 World Cup in Japan looming.

"I feel like you're always trying to prove yourself," Jenkins said.

"Being in the environment is nice and then once you've been in here a little bit, you want it to be a regular thing.

"And then when it is a regular thing, you want to be one of the standout players. I don't think you're ever satisfied with where you are, I think you're always trying to improve your standing as a player within the squad.

"You look at how many of us open-sides were injured during the autumn and missed out on selection.

"But then Josh (Navidi) gets the chance and he's the standout player. That's what it's all about - taking your opportunities when they come.

"I've played with him for years, he's been brilliant for the Blues, he's a good friend of mine and to see him play the way that he did was nice.

"I would have preferred it to be me but it was nice to watch him play and it amplifies the fact that all it takes is one, two or three games to push yourself up the pecking order.

"Strength in depth is always a good thing. People will argue that wrong selections have been made or whatever but it's definitely a good thing for Welsh rugby."

Jenkins missed four months of the 2017-18 season after tearing a hamstring tendon in the pre-season game against Exeter in August.

He returned to action at the end of December and his performances saw him recalled by Wales for their final Six Nations game against Italy, coming off the bench in the 38-14 victory to win his sixth cap.

Justin Tipuric and Sam Warburton are two of Wales' senior flankers
Justin Tipuric and Sam Warburton are two of Wales' senior flankers

"I felt I'd put myself in a good place at the end of last season, I'd toured well with Wales and made a good impression - I was happy with the way I'd played," Jenkins said.

"In pre-season I was probably in the best shape I've ever been in. It was the strongest, fittest and fastest I've ever been.

"Then to have an injury [the hamstring tear] like that in the first game - I knew I was going to miss the first four months of the season, maybe five or six.

"It was disappointing but it's part of rugby. There aren't many players that will go years and years of playing without picking up a serious injury."

But now Jenkins is back to fitness and form, and ready to captain his country at senior level for the first time.

"It'll be a big honour," he added.

"The main thing for me is, you get put in positions for things like captaincy based on what you've done, so it's not about trying to change anything.

"It's about earning the respect of the squad, leading by example and making good decisions when you get the opportunity."

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