Ellis looks for tour cheer in taste of SA
ELLIS Jenkins skippers Cardiff Blues into battle against Southern Kings at Port Elizabeth’s Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium today (1835BST) in the Guinness PRO14 dreaming of a Wales place.
And the in-form flanker hopes his performances over the next few weeks will earn him a call-up for June’s Test with South Africa on neutral soil in Washington and the two with Argentina that follow.
The 24-year-old was a member of Warren Gatland’s squad, which finished runners-up to Grand Slam kings Ireland in the Six Nations, coming on as a replacement in the win over Italy.
Gatland is set to rest a number of leading players despite Wales facing a potentially arduous tour of Argentina.
“It could be an opportunity for some of the fringe players to put a hand up on it,” said six-times capped Jenkins.
He is still fresh after missing almost half the season following a serious hamstring injury sustained in a pre-season friendly triumph over English champions Exeter Chiefs.
Jenkins touched down during Blues’ European Challenge quarterfinal earlier this month after the ball came off the shoulder of Edinburgh scrum-half Nathan Fowles.
“I don’t think I will ever score a try like that again,” grinned Jenkins about a Question of Sport type what happened next moment.
He says his role in the Blues backrow against Kings will be made easier by the presence of Josh Navidi and Nick Williams.
“I don’t know how many games Josh and I have played together. We know each other’s play and we try and help each other out as much as we can.
“And Nick comes up with his big physical moments. It’s easier when you have got those two players alongside you.
“We have got strength in depth in Wales. Josh has been our most consistent player the last couple of years and was exactly the same when he stepped in for Wales last autumn.
“He’s the same old Josh. He just gets on with it and performs every week. You know exactly what you are going to get from him – it’s joy to play with him.”
Blues’ opponents Kings have only won once during a traumatic campaign, 45-13 against the Dragons last month, but Jenkins and company are on high alert because a slip-up in South Africa could open the door for the Ospreys to overhaul them for a precious place in next season’s European Champions Cup.
Coach Danny Wilson has made eight changes to his Blues’ team in the wake of the injury-time defeat to Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
He said: “We simply have to beat the Kings to stay ahead of the Ospreys if we want to qualify for the Champions Cup next season.
“That is something we are all hugely determined to achieve and the boys have prepared well.”
Blues host French club Pau at the Arms Park in the semi-finals of Europe’s second-tier Challenge Cup a week today.
Wilson said: “It’s also crucial that we carry a bit of confidence and momentum into the semi. It’s great to have so much to play for at this stage of the season but we certainly won’t be underestimating the Kings.
“They are a very dangerous team with some elusive runners in the back-three and some very big ball carriers. We will have to be at our best to get the job done.”
Four of the changes made by Wilson come in the pack, with Scott Andrews given the nod at prop, Josh Turnbull at lock. Nick Williams at No.8 and Jenkins leading the side from openside flanker.
Behind the scrum, Rey Lee-Lo returns at centre, while Gareth Anscombe switches to full-back with outside-half Jarrod Evans partnering Tomos Williams at half-back.