Warren Gatland backs Dafydd Jenkins to thrive as Wales captain
Dafydd Jenkins has been hailed as “an incredible professional” after being appointed Wales captain at the age of 21.
The Exeter lock, who has won 12 caps, will lead his country into the Guinness Six Nations Championship, taking over from injured World Cup co-captains Jac Morgan and Dewi Lake.
Jenkins’ elevation comes following a successful spell steering Exeter into Gallagher Premiership title contention and clinching an Investec Champions Cup round-of-16 place.
Lake will miss the Six Nations due to a hamstring problem, while Morgan is a long-term absentee as he recovers from knee surgery.
“There is a lot of competition in that second-row, but I definitely see him as one for the future,” Wales head coach Warren Gatland said of Jenkins.
“I expect, in the next three or four years, that by the time the next World Cup comes around he is going to be a definite starter and he is putting a lot of pressure on at the moment.
“I just think that he is a no-nonsense type of person, he gets down to it.
“He is an incredible professional, he is usually one of the last to get out of the gym, he works hard and he is diligent in terms of his preparation, spending time looking at the laptop, looking at training and looking at opposition teams.
“I think he will come in and do a great job and lead by example.”
Gatland has named five uncapped players in his squad, although the announcement was overshadowed by Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit being released by Gloucester to pursue his dream of a career in the NFL.
Cardiff quartet Cameron Winnett, Evan Lloyd, Alex Mann and Mackenzie Martin, plus Bath prop Archie Griffin have all been included among a 34-strong group, with Wales kicking off their campaign against Scotland on February 3.
There is also a recall for Cardiff flanker James Botham, grandson of cricket great Sir Ian Botham, while other injury absentees include number eight Taulupe Faletau, who is likely to miss the Six Nations because of calf muscle trouble and Exeter forward Christ Tshiunza.
Notable omissions include props Tomas Francis and Dillon Lewis, who now play club rugby in France and England, respectively.
Gatland added: “With Tomas, we’d had a conversation a number of months ago that when he went to France he wasn’t going to be initially available for us in the Six Nations and we were comfortable with that.
“He hasn’t retired from international rugby and he will come back into the reckoning further on.”
Scotland are Wales’ opening Six Nations opponents in Cardiff and Gatland said: “In terms of the expectations, it is just one game at a time.
“If you can win that opening game you can build some confidence from there and then England away in the second game.
“I think that despite all the negativity around Welsh rugby, I think there are a lot of positives.
“There are a lot of negatives financially, but the financial challenges mean that we are giving opportunities to lots of youngsters that we may not have seen a few years ago and for me that is a massive positive.
“We are not going to benefit in the short-term, but I think that in the next three or four years we are going to benefit from us giving them those chances.
“Despite what people are talking about, the financial challenges, I see it differently as a real positive and a real chance for a reset in Welsh rugby that is going to put us in good stead over the next few years.”
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