Jenkins expects to add to Llanelli's European pedigree

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.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'