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Ellis Jenkins relishes chance to captain Wales in Washington

Warren Gatland’s side take on South Africa.

Ellis Jenkins is relishing his elevation to a senior leadership role as he prepares to captain Wales for the first time against South Africa in Washington.

Jenkins is a former Wales Under-20 skipper and takes charge of a youthful side in the American capital with two debutants in Warren Gatland’s match day 23.

Scrum-half Tomos Williams makes his international bow from the off with 20-year-old Dragons flanker Aaron Wainwright on the bench.

Gatland has hit back at critics of this match who claim it is purely a money-grabbing exercise, the New Zealander insisting the 80 minutes forms a vital part of his team’s World Cup preparations.

“A lot is made of the captaincy, but you only get to that position by playing well and doing your job properly and that’s what I plan to do,” said Jenkins.

“It’s a proud moment for me and my family and I have to thank my parents for me getting here, they took me everywhere when I was young.

“We are looking forward to the game, the RFK Stadium is a great venue with lots of history and it’s a huge honour for me to captain the side. We’re really looking forward to the game.”

Wales head coach Gatland has left almost all of his first-choice stars at home to rest ahead of next year’s World Cup, but George North is included and starts at outside centre.

It will be the fourth time North has begun a Test in midfield with wing his usual position.

“There are thunderstorms forecast for the game and if that happens then we’ll have to adapt,” Jenkins added.

“South Africa have a couple of fresh faces, but they’re going to be dangerous.

“They might be inexperienced, but they’ve got a new coach so they’re going to be hungry to impress and the same goes for us with our young players.

“Our guys deserve to start and some of them have been around longer than me. They are quality players and in terms of the captaincy we’ve got plenty of leaders in the squad.

“Bradley Davies and Cory Hill will be a great help to me and as a team we just want to play as well as we can.”

South Africa have named an inexperienced XV of their own with just 159 caps between them. Of their match day 23, there are 13 with no previous experience of international rugby.

Pieter-Steph du Toit is captain for Rassie Erasmus’ first game in charge. Fly-half Elton Jantjies and centre Jesse Kriel also start.

Former Munster coach Erasmus said: “As coaches, we are tremendously excited about the prospect of seeing some of our best young players getting the opportunity to play at this level.

“Wales have a very solid and effective kicking strategy and their cohesive forward and set-piece play are some of their main strong points. However, I do believe that we have picked a match-day squad that will be able to compete very strongly.”

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