Lions land Neil Jenkins as kicking coach


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The Independent Online

The British and Irish Lions have won only four Test series in a century, three of them through the boot, so the addition of Neil Jenkins to the coaching team for this summer's tour of Australia makes complete sense. Jenkins was appointed to the back-room staff – a move that can only enhance Leigh Halfpenny's chances of making the starting line-up for the opening meeting with the Wallabies in Brisbane on 22 June.

Routinely included in any list of all-time goal-kicking greats, Jenkins was responsible for 41 of the 59 points scored by the victorious Lions in South Africa in 1997; even though the Springboks scored three times as many tries as the tourists, they could not match the Welshman's accuracy from the tee. In his current role as the Wales kicking coach, he works closely with Halfpenny and has helped the full-back improve his strike-rate out of all recognition.

"Neil was one of the foremost kickers in the game," said Warren Gatland, the Lions head coach. "The tour is one hell of a challenge and we need to ensure our approach in all parts of the game is first-rate. Tactical kicking will be crucial, as will goal-kicking. He has been working with great success in this area with Wales, he has extensive knowledge of Lions touring and the players can only benefit."

Jenkins was a member of the last Lions party to tour Australia, in 2001, but played second fiddle to Jonny Wilkinson and did not start a Test. He also helped coach the 2009 squad in South Africa. His presence in this latest group enhances the Welsh flavour, with Gatland (an honorary Welshman) and the attack strategist Rob Howley already in the think-tank, along with the analysts Rhys Long and Rhodri Brown, the conditioning specialist Adam Beard and the physio-therapist Prav Mathema. They will be joined by a dozen or more members of the Six Nations-winning team when the tour party is announced next week.

Meanwhile, the exodus from relegated London Welsh continued when the 25-year-old loose forward Ed Jackson confirmed a move to Wasps for next season. Jackson, who led England at two age-group levels, was one of the stand-out members of the Exiles pack during their successful pre-Christmas run. "I have a huge passion for London Welsh and I'm sad to move on, but this opportunity was too good to turn down," he said.

Exeter hooker Neil Clark is to join French club and Top 14 newcomers Oyonnax.