With less than two months to go until the IRB Junior World Championship 2013 kicks off in France, we caught up with Wales Under 20 captain Ellis Jenkins to look back on the Six Nations and ahead to his second shot at the premier age grade title.
How do you look back on the Six Nations after missing out on the Grand Slam?
Until the last game against England, it was a success, but that game was very disappointing. At the start of the tournament I’m sure we would have taken four wins but as you grow as a team, expectations change and we realised we could compete with the best sides.
What was your highlight and why?
The highlight was definitely beating France away from home, especially at such an iconic venue as Clermont Ferrand’s Stade Marcel Michelin in front of a big crowd. We received two yellow cards but we showed great determination and teamwork to come away with the win. We really played for each other, in defence especially when France came back at us.
You got great support during the Six Nations, how important was that to the squad and are you now seeing more support via social media?
The support at Colwyn Bay for our Six Nations games was brilliant as always. We get a huge boost from the crowd there. We’ve also had a lot of good press in the traditional and social media – it’s nice to see the positive comments but on the flip side, you have to take the bad ones too, without taking them too personally.
What lessons will you take forward from the Six Nations as you build toward the Junior World Championship?
What we achieved in the Six Nations shows how important it is to have a good team spirit. There was a great atmosphere in camp off the field which definitely helped on the pitch too. We very much played for each other which got us through difficult moments.
Wales enjoyed their best ever JWC campaign in 2012 – what stands out in the memory for you from that tournament?
Beating New Zealand without a doubt. We were complete underdogs, we weren’t given a chance of beating the world champions so to come out on top is something no one can take away.
A number of those players are still playing for Wales Under 20s, how important is that as you strive to build on that success?
A lot of players have grown in stature on and off the field having played in last year’s tournament, such as Cory Allen and Rhodri Hughes. They used to be amongst the quietest in the squad but now they’re two of the most vocal players, they are big influences within the team.
How would you assess where Wales are now in comparison to two months out from JWC 2012?
We’ve had a more successful Six Nations this season, our confidence is a lot higher but we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We will have five games in three weeks so we will have to be on top of our game to do well.
What is the target for Wales at JWC 2013?
Our main target this season is to reach the semi-finals again. If you get to the knock-out stages, anything can happen and we have to aim to equal if not better our third place finish last season.
On paper, some might say your pool at JWC 2013 is the easier ... what’s your thoughts on facing Argentina, Scotland and Samoa?
They are three tough games. Scotland had a successful Six Nations, Samoa will be better than last year and Argentina showed last season that they are a force to be reckoned beating France, Australia and Scotland. They will be three tough tests but we have a good month of preparation coming up so hopefully we will hit the ground running.
You played Scotland in the Six Nations – will that big win have any bearing on the JWC encounter?
This is a new tournament, Scotland could have new players involved and something to prove because they are a better team than the score line against us in the Six Nations suggested.
How does seeing so many former Wales U20 players starring for the national team and being talked about as Lions for this summer’s tour inspire you?
It’s certainly an inspiration. When you see that some of the current Wales internationals are only one, two or three years older than us, it shows that if you put the work in, there are opportunities to progress in the game. The Junior World Championship is a fantastic tournament in itself, a good tournament would be something to be proud of, whatever the future has in store.
We'll catch up with Ellis again in the weeks to come.