Jenkins backs Gatland to lead Lions

by Staff Writer

Gethin Jenkins has thrown his weight behind red-hot favourite Warren Gatland to take charge of the British and Irish Lions in Australia next year.

Lions chiefs are set to reveal the head coach's identity next month after the dust has settled on this season's RBS Six Nations Championship.

Wales will win the title and grand slam if they beat France on Saturday, which would be the second time for New Zealander Gatland to achieve such a feat following his debut season success in 2008.

Gatland, 48, was a key member of Sir Ian McGeechan's coaching team in South Africa three years ago, when the Lions and Springboks staged an unforgettable Test series that the tourists ultimately lost 2-1.

And Wales prop Jenkins, a Test Lion on the last two tours, believes Gatland has strong claims for the top job this time around.

"I think it would be great if he gets it (Lions job)," Jenkins said.

"He did a great job on the last tour. He is a great coach and he has got the credentials for it.

"It was pretty old school on the last tour. We had some good enjoyment, but it was very serious at the same time."

Jenkins, who captained Wales to victory over Italy two days ago, and his playing colleagues will receive most of the plaudits if Wales are confirmed as European champions later this week.

But the 86 times-capped loosehead has also underlined Gatland's immense contribution, with Wales' current Six Nations campaign following on from a World Cup semi-final appearance last autumn.

"There is a real strong group of people behind Warren - the set-up is really good and he has got everything in place," Jenkins said.

"He gives the players confidence to go out there and perform, and he is also a very good man-manager."

Jenkins played key roles when Wales won the grand slam in 2005 and 2008 - prop Adam Jones and back-row forward Ryan Jones are also chasing a hat-trick - and he admits this week will be a case of trying to block out external hype.

"There is massive expectation on us this week," he said. "It has been a tough campaign, but everything we've put in leads up to winning this game on Saturday.

"It is going to be talked up all week, everyone knows that. It's a big chance for us to make history, and we are really looking forward to it.

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