Jenkins passes test of fitness

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The Independent Online
Neil Jenkins, the Pontypridd outside-half, last night passed a physical examination to put himself in the frame for Wales' Five Nations' Championship opener against England at Twickenham on Saturday.

Wales's record points-scorer was denied the chance to prove his fitness following a shoulder injury when the arctic conditions ruled out Pontypridd's game against New South Wales last weekend. But after surviving a physical contact session against the Wales Under-21 team, the Wales coach, Kevin Bowring, refused to speculate on who is likely play at stand-off against England.

Bowring admitted that the 24-year-old, who has scored 419 points from 38 outings and has not played a competitive match since 16 December, is still short of real match practice.

"The fact he didn't get any real match practice in before Twickenham concerns me a little bit, but he came through a heavy contact session and he is in the frame for selection. I am satisfied with his physical fitness in the same way as I am with Nigel Davies and Gareth Thomas," said Bowring, who is due to announce his side to meet Will Carling's team today.

If, as seems likely, Jenkins is to return to the side then it will mean that Bristol's 21-year-old Arwel Thomas will miss out only two weeks after scoring 16 points on his debut against Italy. Thomas was impressive in the first half, but was criticised for failing to close out the Italians, who recovered from a 25-point deficit to lose by just 31-26, in the second.

n England A's match against New South Wales, scheduled for tomorrow, may be switched to a south coast venue after the Leicester officials reported that their Welford Road pitch could remain unplayable. Leicester's Pilkington Cup tie with Saracens on Saturday had to be called off because of the weather and conditions have not improved. The Rugby Football Union are exploring venues in the warmer South-West with Exeter the most likely venue. Phil Greening, the Gloucester hooker, has withdrawn from the England replacements bench with a calf injury and is replaced by Simon Mitchell of Harlequins.

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