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Neil Jenkins puzzled by Wales criticism after yet another win over France

Published 01/03/2016

Neil Jenkins (right) with Wales head coach Warren Gatland
Neil Jenkins (right) with Wales head coach Warren Gatland

Neil Jenkins has described criticism that Wales received after posting a fifth successive RBS 6 Nations victory over France as "baffling".

Wales' 19-10 triumph in Cardiff last Friday means they are two wins away from being crowned European champions for a fourth time during head coach Warren Gatland's reign.

Wales' current level of success against France, meanwhile, was last witnessed during the 1950s, when they won six Tests in a row.

Wales assistant coach and skills specialist Jenkins readily accepts that the Six Nations title contenders need to be "way more clinical" in attack following a Principality Stadium triumph that saw clear try-scoring opportunities wasted, especially during the first half.

But a subsequent media onslaught - much of it from former players - produced a bout of collective head-scratching in the Wales camp as preparations began to be formulated for next week's Twickenham showdown against unbeaten title rivals and current championship leaders England.

"It was a funny feeling after the game, when you hear some of the stuff going on," former Wales fly-half and his country's record Test points-scorer Jenkins said.

"I am a bit lost by it all, really. I have heard a few comments, but it was five times on the bounce against France. I played against France on many occasions, and if you managed to win once against them it was a pretty good achievement.

"But to win five - two in Paris and three in Cardiff - that says it all for me.

"We had enough opportunities to win by a little bit more on Friday night. We were not quite clinical enough. But they are a tough, physical side and they have some fantastic players.

"So, if anyone had offered me five out of five against France, then I would have bitten their hand off.

"It (criticism) is baffling, but here we are, it's Wales.

"The most important thing is to keep doing what we're doing, keep trying to get better, keep winning. That's what sport is all about.

"These boys have got short careers, and their win-loss (records) would come up pretty good. They've got a few trophies under the belt too, and a Lions (Test series) victory, most of them. These boys are pretty special. I think we've got a pretty special side at the moment.

"We created a lot of chances in the World Cup, against Australia and South Africa, but the one thing we would all agree on is that we've got to be way more clinical when these chances occur.

"Whether it be the decision-making of the pass or the accuracy of the pass. Sometimes there is a pass on, and we've kicked.

"There are a lot of things we can do better, but I think gradually we're getting better in all aspects of our game and we need to go up another couple of gears at Twickenham."

Wales have beaten England three times on Twickenham soil under Gatland - twice during Grand Slam-winning campaigns, and then in last autumn's World Cup pool stage that accelerated England's painful tournament demise.

And such success is a far cry from Jenkins' day. During an 87-cap Wales career, he played against England 10 times - and won just twice.

"I've gone there (Twickenham) on many occasions and come back having had a few hammerings," he added.

"Since 'Gats' has taken over, we have won there on three occasions, which were massive victories. It is a stadium that we have won games in.

"It is a very tough place to go, but certainly from when I played, I think there is a lot more confidence in the team playing today than maybe what we had in our day.

"There is enough pressure on this game, anyway. It probably is a do-or-die game for us, there is no doubting that. From our point of view, in terms of trying to win the championship a week later against Italy, we have to win (at Twickenham) - we can't afford to lose it.

"England will probably think the same in terms of winning next week and winning the Triple Crown, and giving themselves a chance a week later for the championship and a Grand Slam in Paris."

Jenkins, meanwhile, believes that fit-again centre Manu Tuilagi's return to the England squad ahead of the Wales clash comes as no surprise.

"Manu is a class act," Jenkins said. "He is a fantastic rugby player. As soon as he was fit, there was no doubt he was going to come back into their squad.

"He has obviously got a bit of game-time under his belt now. How match-fit he is at this moment in time, who knows? But he is a fantastic rugby player who will only be a positive for England, that's for sure."

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