Dafydd Jenkins continues to make strides as he gears up for World Cup start
Exeter forward Dafydd Jenkins will achieve another milestone moment when he makes his first Rugby World Cup start in Saturday’s clash against Portugal.
The 20-year-old lock has made rapid strides during an international career that only began last season with a Test debut against autumn opponents Georgia.
Having already captained the Chiefs in a Gallagher Premiership game, Jenkins quickly became an important part of Wales squads under head coach Warren Gatland.
And he was in the thick of it during his 22 minutes off the bench in Wales’ gripping 32-26 victory over opening Pool C opponents Fiji last weekend.
It proved a huge defensive rearguard from Gatland’s team as Fiji pushed for an unlikely win from 18 points adrift.
“It is a privilege to be with the group,” Jenkins said.
“I just want to try and leave the 20-year-old younger version of myself behind and push on forward, be a more experienced player at this level and competing hard.”
Jenkins’ father Hywel, a back-row forward for Swansea and Neath, went close to full international honours, representing Wales A and then Wales in an uncapped game against the United States.
And Jenkins’ rugby apprenticeship continued at Hartpury College in Gloucestershire, a renowned academy for the sport with an impressive list of past students that also includes Louis Rees-Zammit, Ellis Genge and Jonny May.
Exeter boss Rob Baxter contacted Jenkins during his time at Hartpury, and a move to Sandy Park followed in 2021, where he quickly broke into Chiefs’ Champions Cup and Premiership teams.
At 6ft 7in and around 18 stone, he has made his presence felt, but he is also performing an important off-field role during his first World Cup.
As Wales’ youngest squad member, he is entrusted with carrying a giant carved lovespoon – a traditional Welsh symbol of love and affection – at major events during the tournament.
Prop Rhys Carre performed those duties four years ago in Japan, and former Dragons centre Tyler Morgan at the 2015 World Cup in England.
“I haven’t lost it yet which is good,” Jenkins added. “A few boys are definitely eyeing it up, so I have to keep it away from them.
“It was really special (in Bordeaux for the Fiji game). The crowd was amazing, a different experience to what I have had before.
“We saw videos before the game from Bordeaux of Welsh fans singing in the town. It was more the atmosphere that was a bit different.”
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