Daunting job for Jenkins

Jonathan Davies says Wales will be tested to the limit by French mobility
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The Independent Online
NEIL JENKINS deserves his chance to play for Wales against France but I don't think anyone ought to envy him. France are the best team in the championship and the team they've chosen for this Saturday shows what tough opposition they are going to be.

The French coach Jean-Claude Skrela loves to attack and by moving Benazzi into the second row is seeking to add even more mobility to his powerful pack. Benazzi performed so well in South Africa last year he was rated the best blind-side wing-forward in the world and will be extra ammunition to a very swift back row.

In their bid to avoid the wooden spoon, Wales couldn't face a tougher test. To read the press over the past week, you'd think that the whole game centred on who would wear the No 10 shirt for Wales. I fear there's far more to it than that. No one rates the outside-half's importance more highly than I do, but there is a limit to what he can achieve on his own. What he has to possess more than anything else is confidence and certainty. After Arwel's Thomas's performance in Dublin even his admirable self-confidence might be dented. His international career has had a very promising start and he will have learned much from his experience of the gulf between club and international football. His chance will surely come again.

Some people linked my name with the role but although I would love to play for Wales again I haven't had enough opportunities in the position at top level to mount a claim. I'm happy in my own mind about my ability to do it but the selectors need to see me in competitive action first. I have no doubt they are right to play Jenkins. But for his collar-bone injury he would have been in at the start of Kevin Bowring's revolution. As it is, he hasn't had a chance to play in the new expansive pattern. He has done great service for Wales in teams that imposed other priorities on him. No one has ever offered him the chance to play in an open and adventurous Welsh set-up. To doubt his suitability for a system he has never had a chance of playing in internationally is ridiculous.

They haven't done him any favours by pitching him into this daunting challenge but he has the composure and strength of will that is going to be a massive help. Scotland upset the French by running them around and Wales must do likewise. There is a heavy load on Gwyn Jones's shoulders again and the backs will have to be in the game in a big way. I am expecting a major contribution from Leigh Davies and I look to Justin Thomas to use his pace to get more involved. Wayne Proctor didn't deserve to be dropped but his replacement Gareth Thomas has a powerful figure for a fast man and he can cause France problems through the middle.

I consider Andrew Lewis to be the best footballing prop in Wales but in preferring Christian Loader on this occasion they've placed greater emphasis on srummaging which is probably the right idea. The Welsh pack must hold their own in the tight and break fast to set up centre-field positions. More than anything, Wales must stick to the adventurous, optimistic pattern they've introduced this year. It is their best chance of success. Probably their only chance.

France will have designs on using this match to sharpen their game for harder tasks ahead against the southern hemisphere countries and I am sure England ought to feel the same about their encounter against Ireland at Twickenham. Obviously, England would like to win the Triple Crown and the championship but it is far more important for them to start fulfilling those expansive promises.

They can't have any doubts about their ability to beat Ireland whatever pattern they adopt so it is a golden opportunity to prove to us and, more importantly, to themselves that they have the vision to expand their playing horizons. The Irish spirit will be up after beating Wales but they have a glaring weakness in the centres. England will never have a better invitation to produce a flourish.

We don't want to see any caution from them on this last Saturday of the Five Nations. We don't want to see it from any of the teams. Controlled open football is what we'll be looking for.

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