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Last Updated: Monday, 12 May, 2003, 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK
The ginger monster bows out
By Bryn Palmer

Neil Jenkins takes charge during a Wales match
Jenkins has been making his point for Wales for 12 years

After 235 penalties, 130 conversions, 10 drop goals and 11 tries in a Welsh jersey, the most prolific points scorer in international history has called it a day.

The sight of Neil Jenkins going through his meticulous routine before propelling another kick through the posts with a swish of his right boot will never be seen again at a Test match arena.

Denizens of Pontypridd and Bridgend will still witness it next season, as the flame-haired fly-half continues to ply his trade with the new provincial side.

But after 12 years accumulating points for Wales and the British Lions, the ravages of injury have persuaded Jenkins to call time on his career at the top level.

He does so as the holder of eight different Welsh points scoring records, from his 30 points against Italy in 1999 to his nine penalties in France the same year.

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Jenkins has also played for Wales on more occasions, 87, than any other player, comfortably outstripping the legends of the game in the Principality.

But unlike his fly-half predecessors, Barry John, Phil Bennett and Jonathan Davies, Jenkins' feats are not discussed in reverential tones.

In many ways, the legacy of that trio made Jenkins' tenure at number 10 all the more remarkable given the constant comparisons with the stars of the past.

There is a grudging admiration for his dedication and technique, and appreciation of the myriad occasions he kicked Wales to victory almost singled-handedly.

Never the most naturally gifted of players, and lacking the running flair of the great fly-halves, Jenkins regularly endured calls for his demotion.

The claims of Swansea stand-off Arwel Thomas and others of the more-gifted-but-less-reliable variety were regularly pressed, but no Welsh coach left Jenkins out for long.

Neil Jenkins celebrates beating France in Paris in 2001
A second straight victory in Paris was one of Jenkins' finest moments

Perhaps his finest moments came during Wales' record-breaking run of 10 victories in 1999 under much-maligned coach Graham Henry.

Late kicks against France - the first time Wales had won in Paris for 24 years - and, most memorably, to deny England a Grand Slam at Wembley, ensured a dramatic finale to the last Five Nations Championship.

Two years later he passed 1,000 points for Wales in Paris with a 28-point haul featuring the 'full house' of a try, conversions, penalties and drop goals.

In the summer of 2001, he was - to the surprise of many observers - picked for his second Lions tour.

But he struggled in his few appearances in Australia before a serious knee injury signalled the beginning of the end.

ALL-TIME TEST POINTS SCORERS
Neil Jenkins 1090 pts (87 caps)
Diego Dominguez 983 (74)
Andrew Mehrtens 932 (66)
Michael Lynagh 911 (72)
Matt Burke 833 (68)
Gavin Hastings 667 (61)
Jonny Wilkinson 661 (43)

Four years earlier, he had played a crucial role in the Lions' epic series victory in South Africa, despite being asked to play full-back - a position he hated.

Even after a lengthy lay-off, Jenkins returned for one more fling in a Wales jersey last autumn, scoring 20 points against Romania in Wrexham.

It was not the most auspicious of send-offs, but Jenkins is a modest man who gave Wales more reasons for hope than seemed possible during the past decade.

He leaves his own legacy in the shape of England's Jonny Wilkinson, a self-confessed admirer and similarly obsessed practitioner who will likely break Jenkins' points record in time.

There is also more than a hint of Jenkins in Llanelli's Stephen Jones, who will shoulder the number 10 burden in Wales' World Cup campaign.

The Ginger Monster may have played his last Test, but his longevity in the most exacting position in Welsh sport remains a triumph of dedication and defiance.




SEE ALSO
Howley hails Jenkins
12 May 03  |  Internationals
Jenkins set for new role
12 May 03  |  Internationals
Jenkins quits international stage
11 May 03  |  Internationals
Jenkins' career in photos
12 May 03  |  Photo Galleries

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