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Wednesday, October 13, 1999 Published at 21:06 GMT 22:06 UK

UK: Wales

Jenkins ready for record

Neil Jenkins is set to break the test points record against Samoa

Wales coach Graham Henry acclaimed "the world's best goal-kicker" as points machine Neil Jenkins prepared to rewrite the record books.

Despite the personal milestones riding on Jenkins' performance, Henry said the outside half was focussing on a win against Samoa.

"He's equalled the record now - there's never been anyone better," said Henry.

"He was under more pressure in the last game. I know there'll be a big song and dance when he scores his first points but he's a professional and he'll get on with his job."

[ image: In 18 months Neil Jenkins has averaged 20 points a match for Wales]
In 18 months Neil Jenkins has averaged 20 points a match for Wales
"We might not let him kick, so he'll have to score a try to break the record and that'll be good for his game."

Jenkins will take centre stage at the Millennium Stadium when Wales wind up their Pool D programme against Samoa, needing victory for a World Cup quarter-final appointment with Australia in Cardiff on Saturday week.

The Cardiff fly-half requires one successful kick - or a try - to succeed Australian legend Michael Lynagh as the most prolific international points scorer of all-time.

Jenkins matched Lynagh's magic 911 figure during the 64-15 win over Japan taking two Tests more - 71 for Wales and three as a British Lion - but three years less than a player whose record has stood since 1995.

A capacity crowd of 72,500 Wales's third successive World Cup sell-out will witness rugby history unfold - an inevitable scenario with Jenkins having gone 14 consecutive Tests since his last scoreless outing against France in April 1998.

In that period he has averaged almost 20 points a game amassing 58% of the aggregate Test match total under Henry, and Samoa - like every other opponent since Wales made him first-choice goalkicker - live in fear.

[ image: Neil Jenkins has blossomed under Graham Henry]
Neil Jenkins has blossomed under Graham Henry
"Neil has been a marvellous servant for Welsh rugby - he is a total professional and a key player in our side," added Henry.

"I have coached the game for 27 years and seen a lot of committed professionals, and he is right up there with the best.

"He's a role model for the young people of this country."

Jenkins revealed that constant talk of the record was "doing his head in".

Henry added: "Neil won't be concerned with breaking it and will probably go on and get 1,911 before he's finished."

"Neil has put in loads and loads of practice to make him the world's best goal-kicker, often training in pretty lonely surroundings, but he just gets on with it."

John Rowlands, a member of Henry's backroom staff, knows Jenkins better than most.

He will be at his side carrying out the sand from which the launch-pad is constructed.

"Sometimes I'll say something to Neil like `stay calm,' but he doesn't really need calming down. He just likes a face that he knows taking the sand out there to him on the pitch," said Rowlands.

"The conversation out on the pitch is usually limited, especially if the situation is tense, He doesn't want anyone to interrupt his routine."

[ image: Sand from Tenby is brought in specially by a fan]
Sand from Tenby is brought in specially by a fan
Jenkins revealed the secret to his success - the best sand in the world.

Before each Wales match, Denzil Griffiths, a fanatical supporter of his country's rugby team, shovels buckets of sand from the North Beach in the Welsh coastal town of Tenby for Jenkins to use as a tee for his goal kicks.

"We have the best stadium in the world and the best kicker in the world, so whay not make sure he has the best sand in the world," said Griffiths.

Jenkins-mania is reaching fever-pitch in the Welsh valleys as he prepares to pass Lynagh's record 911 points.

He has been handed the keys of a Porsche 911 to use while the World Cup is on by a dealer in Cardiff.

The modest fly-half has even inspired the creation of a giant four-metre effigy of himself made up of 400 balloons which sits proudly in the window of a florist in Neath - and will stay there if and when the Welsh bubble bursts.

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