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Gethin Jenkins still enjoying his rugby as he closes in on history

Published 29/10/2016

Long-serving Wales prop Gethin Jenkins is ready for another demanding autumn international campaign
Long-serving Wales prop Gethin Jenkins is ready for another demanding autumn international campaign

Gethin Jenkins is two appearances away from becoming the most capped front-row forward in Test match history.

And the loosehead prop, who will celebrate his 36th birthday midway through Wales' forthcoming autumn international series, has no intention of winding down a memorable career that has seen him play Test rugby every year since 2002.

Jenkins' Wales debut came 14 years ago next Tuesday - a relatively low-key affair against Romania in Wrexham - but his hunger to excel amid the sport's higher echelons is undiminished.

He is set to be in Wales' starting line-up for the Principality Stadium appointment with Australia next Saturday.

That would make it 132 caps for his country and the British and Irish Lions, while also drawing him level alongside former New Zealand hooker Keven Mealamu, with only Richie McCaw (148), Brian O'Driscoll (141) and George Gregan (139) ahead on the all-time appearance chart.

Jenkins, though, is not interested in statistics as he prepared for another demanding autumn campaign that will also see Wales tackle Argentina, Japan and South Africa.

"My whole life has been rugby, rugby, and that is not going to change," Cardiff Blues forward Jenkins said.

"You are doing what you love and what you started playing for when it was not your job.

"It does get hard, and sometimes you have a moan about the scheduling and stuff, but then you realise why you are doing it - running out on that field at the weekend.

"A number of players who have retired have said to keep going as long as you can. You are a long time retired.

"The games are the big motivation for me, putting in a big performance in front of your family and friends. It has the same feeling now as it did when I started.

"At this stage of my career, you appreciate every game you have left."

Asked if World Cup-winning New Zealand captain McCaw's cap tally was a target, Jenkins added: "No. Getting higher and higher (on the cap list) does not motivate me.

"The big thing for me was getting to 100 caps. Every player would cherish that. I am just looking to every game and trying to enjoy it."

Attention will quickly turn this season to the Lions tour of New Zealand next summer. Jenkins has already been on three Lions expeditions - New Zealand (2005), South Africa (2009 and Australia (2013) - and a fourth, on current form, might not prove beyond him.

"I am looking to the autumn and the Six Nations," he said. "Every player in the Six Nations has a chance. That has always been the case.

"You have to do your best in that competition. You need to impress in the autumn to be selected for the Six Nations. Your club form is important, but you want to set down a marker in these four games (in November)."

First on Jenkins' agenda, though, is Australia, a country that Wales have not beaten for eight years and experienced a demoralising run of 11 successive defeats against.

"Somebody asked me how many times I had beaten them, and I think I have only beaten them once and drawn with them once (in 14 Tests)," Jenkins added.

"It's not a great record, and some of those losses have come in the last play of the game. That makes it even harder to swallow.

"We know they have got the upper hand in that area with what they have done in the past, but we have got to have a bit of belief in ourselves that we can win at home.

"I would like to think we have been there or thereabouts in most of the games we have played against them, but have not got over that final hurdle of winning the game.

"It's a tough (autumn) schedule - four top teams in four weeks. It is hard on the body, it is hard on the mind, and we will do the best we can to prepare and put in some good performances."

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