Jenkins expects to add to Llanelli's European pedigree
Friday 11 April 2003
The brave new regionalists of Welsh rugby have five professional squads to select and sign before the start of next season – five teams, but only four chief coaches. Gareth Jenkins of Llanelli, a one-club servant with a worldwide reputation as a master of the game's tactical and motivational arts, is the human equivalent of a done deal, and has been since the radical re-structuring of the sport in the Principality was little more than a twinkle in a committee-man's eye. The merest suspicion of a move to replace Jenkins as the divine ruler of Stradey Park would mean blood on the streets of Carmarthenshire.
Tonight, Stradey will open its gates to another capacity crowd of 10,800 for the first of this season's Heineken Cup quarter-finals – a plum match against the fierce Catalans of Perpignan. The locals expect victory and a third élite European semi-final in four seasons – Llanelli have played host to 13 French teams down the decades and won on each occasion – and with Scott Quinnell in full warpaint (the old boy plays about one game in three these days, but it tends to be good) they start as clear favourites.
Jenkins, however, is acutely conscious of the threat posed by Olivier Saiset's side, a team powered by an out-sized front five boasting class acts in Marc Dal Maso and Rimas Alvarez Kairelis. "This is a massive game for the club," the coach said yesterday. "If we are favourites, it is only because we have home advantage. There are no bad teams left in the tournament and I would certainly place Perpignan among the best eight sides in Europe. We have played them three times in this competition, twice last season, but they seem to me to pose a different threat now."
To a large extent, this new threat revolves around Manny Edmonds, the former Wallaby outside-half who gave the Lions all the grief they could handle during their 2001 tour of Australia. He and another player who could hardly be less Catalonian if he tried – the raw-boned Canadian No 8 Phil Murphy – have the ability to make Llanelli sweat, and are very definitely up for the contest. "Llanelli's record in Heineken Cup rugby makes them a reference point in the European game," said Murphy. "This will be a battle, for sure."
Llanelli will play Robbie McBryde, a Lions tourist two years ago, at hooker for the first time since early January. He is one of 14 internationals in the starting line-up – Barry Davies, the full-back, is the odd man out – and there are another three on the bench: the wing Mark Jones, the scrum-half Guy Easterby and the prop John Davies. Perpignan have named seven Test players in a 22-man squad, including the Tricolore backs Pascal Giordani and Jean-Marc Souverbie.
One of club rugby's biggest weekends continues with the Toulouse-Northampton and Leinster-Biarritz quarter-finals tomorrow – combined audience, 75,000-plus – and the sell-out tie between Leicester and Munster on Sunday.
Mario Balotelli to Liverpool: Best memes as Twitter reacts to imminent £16m transfer
Manchester United transfer news: Louis van Gaal joins Arsenal and Chelsea in the race for Sami Khedira
Mario Balotelli takes 50 per cent pay cut to join Liverpool as Samuel as Eto’o waits in the wings if deal falls through
Crystal Palace next manager latest: Palace consider Ally McCoist - EXCLUSIVE
Click here for the full story." title="When a youngster asked for an autograph outside Manchester City's training ground, Balotelli demanded to know why the boy was playing truant. After the child revealed he was being bullied, Balotelli drove the boy and his mother to the school in question so he could tackle the bully himself. He demanded to see the headmaster to make him aware of the issue and then mediated between the two boys to resolve the problem. A source said: 'Mario feels strongly about bullying.' Click here for the full story." width="88" height="52" />Mario Balotelli: The funniest stories
- 1 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 2 West poised to join forces with President Assad in face of Islamic State
- 3 Mother fed her daughter tapeworms to make her skinny for pageant
- 4 Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
- 5 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile