Jenkins applies for Wales job after all

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The Independent Online

Gareth Jenkins has confirmed that he has applied to become the head coach of Wales. The Llanelli Scarlets director of rugby was initially unwilling to apply for the position - left vacant by Mike Ruddock's sudden departure in February - unless significant changes were made at the top of the Welsh Rugby Union.

Jenkins said he had been "publicly humiliated" in 2004, when he was the leading candidate to replace Steve Hansen, only for the Welsh Rugby Union to appoint Ruddock, who had not applied for the job. Despite retaining a certain bitterness towards the WRU chairman, David Pickering, and chief executive, Steve Lewis, Jenkins admitted that a strong sense of support at grass roots level had caused him to reconsider his position.

"It is now or never," said Jenkins after submitting his application yesterday. "At the end of the day I would love to do the job and believe I have a lot to offer."

Jenkins has led Llanelli to eight domestic trophies, the 2003 Celtic League title and Heineken Cup semi-finals in 2000 and 2002. As an assistant to Alan Davies he helped Wales win the 1994 Five Nations title and on last summer's British Lions tour the midweek side he coached, with Scotland's Ian McGeechan, were unbeaten.

Jenkins is believed to face competition from the Leeds director of rugby, Phil Davies, but he won a recent public poll with 35 per cent of the vote. This week he received support from McGeechan and the Welsh rugby legends JJ and JPR Williams.

Jenkins was also encouraged by attempts being made to invoke a vote of no confidence in the WRU board. Should a group of clubs succeed in calling an extraordinary general meeting - a decision is expected later this month - changes can be expected at the top of the union.

Jenkins recently told BBC Wales: "I've been absolutely clear from the outset, I have aspirations to coach Wales. I would love to do the job and would relish the challenge. Maybe some of the personnel at the WRU are not going to be there forever. Maybe there are things happening that would change my mind."

Ruddock took Wales to a first Grand Slam in 27 years with a largely inherited management team. If successful, Jenkins will demand the freedom to bring in his own men.

"You have to move on and work with people you don't like, but this isn't only about that - if I'm to coach Wales I have to be able to do it in the way I feel it has to be done," he said. "I would certainly have to bring in my own management team, that's a point that's even more relevant now than when I applied previously. It's about regenerating and reinventing the national structure with Wales."

The Scarlets chief executive, Stuart Gallacher, is supporting Jenkins' application.

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