Gareth Jenkins: I have no regrets

Sacked as coach of Wales last year after World Cup defeat to Fiji, Gareth Jenkins is now back at his beloved Scarlets after taking a much needed break from the game to analyse where it went wrong
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The contrast could not be more stark. The day after Wales' inglorious exit from the 2007 World Cup, coach Gareth Jenkins looked a broken man when the team returned to its base at the Vale of Glamorgan.

A nation was still in mourning after a shock 38-34 defeat to Fiji dumped Jenkins' side out of the World Cup when the Welsh entourage arrived back in the Principality. A sprinkling of fans made their way to the Welsh base to commiserate with the former Llanelli coach who had fought so hard to gain the position he coveted so much, only to see it end in an avalanche of tears.

Fast forward 12 months and Jenkins has a spring in his step again. Sitting in his small office next to the ticket bureau at Stradey Park you sense the Nantes nightmare is now fully behind him as he moves on to the next phase of his career as head of regional development and recruitment with the Scarlets.

After his rapid removal from the Welsh set-up, Jenkins went into hibernation as the Wales hierarchy acted swiftly to install former Wasps supremo Warren Gatland and his right-hand man Shaun Edwards in his place. To rub salt in the wounds, the duo then took what was basically the same underachieving World Cup squad to Grand Slam glory.

It would have been easy for him to become bitter about his experience and Jenkins concedes he went through a painful period, but insists he has moved on.

"It's safe to say that what I went through was not a great experience," he says. "But sometimes in life you just have to deal with things like that. The time away from the game has fortunately allowed me to do that.

"The national coach's job, particularly in Wales, is just so intense, everything you do is so public. When you are subjected to that level of scrutiny there comes a time when you just have to escape. I took the chance to do that and I'm pleased I did.

"It took me a good couple of months to deal with the disappointment after I left the post and I took advantage of the chance to get out of the spotlight. However, I don't regret doing the job, if I had my time over again I would not have not done it.

"From now on I will have an administrative, overseeing job - and it is the right time for me to do something like this."

So is he truly over his departure from the Wales post which is, if you go by his new position, a demoralising way to end his illustrious coaching career?

"What I actually did was stand away from it for a period of time," he says. "It was necessary, as the first thing you have to do, when I was confronted with the decision made about me, was to first analyse and evaluate what I was responsible for and what I tried to deliver while I was in that job.

"I just needed time to take time away and work myself around what I call 'evaluation.' I eventually arrived at a point when I said to myself that if I was going into that job tomorrow, of all the things I did during my 16 months in the job, what would I have done differently?

"And there was probably on average 10 per cent that I would have done different - 90 per cent of the things I had done would have stayed the same. So you have got to put it behind you and look at what you want to do next."

So does he think the Grand Slam success was built on his hard work prior to the Six Nations? "You never know, do you." he replies. "You can't even ask that question - the coaches were there for two weeks before the Grand Slam season. There might have been some building blocks from the World Cup which actually allowed us to have the success in the Six Nations but that's not for me to suggest."

But that's all in the past for the former coach-turned-administrator. Even though he can often be seen watching coach Nigel Davies putting his beloved Scarlets through their paces from the touchlines during training sessions, Jenkins is clearly thriving in his new position.

"I am enjoying it," he says. "There is nothing better than a challenge and we have got a big challenge here. I am really energised by it. I realise the importance of it and I know it's an area we can't afford to fail in. There's a good set of challenges here and I've got an appetite back.

"I suffered disappointments in the last year or so but they are behind me now and I am just really looking forward to being a part of something exciting going forward."

The lure back to his spiritual home proved too big to ignore. Mighty Munster tried to entice him to Ireland but the man who has brought so much success to this small part of west Wales couldn't be prised away, which is strange as the one team who bears a similar resemblance to the ethos of the Scarlets would be the side from Limerick.

"I know," he concedes, "but it just didn't feel right for me. I was not excited by the reality of ending up coaching there. It was simply a case that coaching wasn't my next move. That excitement and drive that you need to actually coach was no longer there. I now have an opportunity to put structures in place here and develop a legacy for the region and that really excites me."

With Davies able to concentrate on the playing side of things, Jenkins is responsible for rugby recruitment and development and the community game - all areas which he is extremely passionate about.

"It's a big area, a very important area and an area where there's a lot of work needed over the next couple of years," he explains. "I've seen the region, from its inception, progress. A lot of good things have happened. Regional rugby was a necessity for Welsh rugby but we can't rest on our laurels.

"The professional game has moved up a level as it always will do. We need to react and respond and set up high coaching and playing developments to get us to the top."

You somehow get the feeling that the Scarlets have got the right man in the right place to do the right job.

This story was sourced from International Rugby News