'He's made an impact right from the word go' - Jenkins settling into life at Leinster

Assistant coach Robin McBryde says the second row has been “great” since joining the province from Munster.

Jason Jenkins.
Jason Jenkins.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

HE’S ONLY PLAYED three times for his new team, but already the signing of Jason Jenkins looks like an excellent bit of business by Leinster.

The 6’8″, 124kg second row had quickly settled into his new surroundings since joining from Munster, making a telling impact in the United Rugby Championship wins against Zebre, Benetton and Ulster which have left Leinster joint-top of the the table after the opening rounds of the new season.

“He’s been great,” says Leinster assistant coach Robin McBryde.

“He was unlucky with injuries joining us in Leinster. I know the medical team has worked hard with him with regard to a finger injury he had when he arrived. It was very hard for him to hit the ground running right from the word go without having had those minutes under your belt. But now that he has a clean bill of health, he is playing really well.

Away from the set piece, he has put shots in around the field. Put himself about. Struck up a great relationship with Michael Ala’alatoa from a scrummaging point of view. Working well with Ross [Molony] there as a second-row partnership as well. I think he’ll keep on growing, he’ll keep getting better. I think it was the first 80 minute game he played the other week [against Benetton] for two years. Fair dues to him. He has made an impact right from the word go.”

The powerful South African has arguably been Leinster’s outstanding performer across the opening three rounds. As well as his obvious physical presence around the lineout, Jenkins has been happy to get himself around the pitch and be involved in Leinster’s attacking play, too.

And McBryde explains that the power he brings around the scrum has also been notable.

“You get feedback. The front-row will tell you if they’re not getting a lot of weight coming through. Everybody is happy when Jason is behind them. Then from a maul point of view as well, he’s all over his detail in fairness to him. [It's] A big ask to come and learn a different language, learn a different way of doing things, but he has taken it in his stride and I expect him to grow even further. Really happy with the way Jason is going.”

robin-mcbryde McBryde during a Leinster training session on Monday. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

Injury issues limited Jenkins to just 10 appearances for Munster in his sole season at Thomond Park, but McBryde says Leinster had no concerns about his durability before bringing him across the country.

“I’m sure they [Leinster] would have done their due diligence with regards to trying to sign somebody, but he sees the game differently. He’s South African. That’s the beauty of having a good mix of Kiwis or wherever players come from. They see the game differently.

“I suppose there’s a little bit of an inside track on what is going to come on Saturday with the Sharks as well. They’re going to ask big questions of us at set-piece time. A big, power-based team running hard around the corner. Hitting things, confrontational, physical.”

Jenkins isn’t the only in-form member of the Leinster pack, with hooker Dan Sheehan making a superb start to the season on the back of a strong summer tour in New Zealand with Ireland.

The 24-year-old has notched four tries in his last two outings – including a hat-trick against Benetton – but Sheehan offers much more than just five-pointers, with the dynamic front-rower bringing an impressive energy around the pitch; his three strong carries in the lead-up to Ryan Baird’s try against Ulster an example of his tireless workrate in a game in which he played the full 80 minutes and was named player of the match.

“Oh he’s not doing anything else [other than scoring tries],” McBryde says, hiding a smile. “I’m not very happy with him, he’s saving himself in the scrums…

“No, on the back of a great summer for Ireland he’s just maintained that level of performance. He’s obviously very confident and when you’re at the top of your game, you tend to make the right decisions.

“He’s had to work hard for a couple of tries, he’s benefited from the work of the pack on other occasions, but his set-piece accuracy has been second to none and he carries that ball-carrying threat as well.

jason-jenkins Jenkins joined Leinster from Munster over the summer. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

“He’s very dynamic as a ball-carrier so you can design certain plays around the lineout knowing that he’s got that ability to carry the ball, to pass, to make the right decision at the right time.

“So long may it continue, really, and he’s throwing down the gauntlet to the other hookers out there.”

Following Friday’s win over Ulster, Leinster are now preparing for a Saturday evening clash with the Sharks, who are expected to travel to Dublin without the bulk of their South Africa internationals.

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McBryde believes a testing night in the driving Belfast rain will have set the squad up nicely for what should be another physically demanding encounter.

“We were very pleased with the opening half [against Ulster]. Disappointed that we lost a lineout right towards the end, the reaction of the crowd told you, any small little mistake, they’re going to be right on the back of you. Other than that I thought the first half was good.

“The intent we showed right from the word go and from a scrummaging point of view, we put them under pressure. Second half, some of our decision making in general wasn’t the best that it could be. Obviously we conceded a maul try which is never good. They mauled every single lineout. The conditions dictated a lot of that as well. It was a good hit out ahead of this week.

“We have spoken about it as coaches, you go from Friday to Friday, and we did that two weeks on the bounce, you tend not get into a lot of depth in your training. You just tend to do what you need to do.

“This week we have a full week so we’re able to delve a little deeper, especially from a maul defence point of view. To take away a win from Ulster was great. The conditions were so poor really, you just put the stats to one side and say, you come away from the match with a win, take it for what it is and move on.”

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Ciarán Kennedy

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