Welsh bullish despite loss of prop Jenkins

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The Independent Online

Wales have put a brave face on star prop Gethin Jenkins' absence from their Tests against the Tri-Nations heavyweights South Africa and New Zealand next month.

Jenkins' injury-hit season has concluded with him being sidelined for up to six weeks. A calf muscle problem means the 73 times-capped Cardiff Blues loose head will not feature in next week's Millennium Stadium appointment with the Springboks, plus games against New Zealand in Dunedin on 19 June and Hamilton seven days later.

The Wales coach, Warren Gatland, has not yet summoned a replacement for Jenkins, although Ospreys' front-row forward Craig Mitchell features on the standby list. Gatland named a 27-man squad earlier this month, with Paul James, John Yapp and Adam Jones now the remaining props following Jenkins' withdrawal.

Jenkins went off at half-time during the Blues' Amlin Challenge Cup final victory over Toulon in Marseilles four days ago, while his Six Nations campaign comprised a start against Italy and a substitute appearance when Wales beat Scotland.

"Unfortunately, Gethin has a long-standing injury which seems to be recurring a lot, and he is looking at four to six weeks out," said the Wales assistant coach, Shaun Edwards. "Any team losing Gethin is going to be a negative thing. You are losing a British and Irish Lions front-row player – we all know Gethin's capabilities. But I am a big believer in that when one door shuts for one person, it opens for someone else.

"We've got a Test match in 10 days' time, and if we continue with the intensity we had in training today then it's going to be a rip-roaring affair. Today's training was as good as we've ever had – it was very encouraging."

Wales have beaten South Africa only once in their history - a 29-19 success 11 years ago. But they are likely to start as favourites, given the Springboks are without many front-line players "It is a while since we beat South Africa, and we want to make sure we're fully prepared," Edwards said.

"But I found it humorous when I heard South Africa had some 'second-string' players, and Butch James' name was mentioned. They have got some very talented players, and we are treating it as a full-on Test match, which it is."

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