El­lis looks for tour cheer in taste of SA

South Wales Echo - - SPORT -

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.

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