Wales boss Wayne Pivac hails ‘very motivated’ Ellis Jenkins ahead of comeback

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Wales boss Wayne Pivac has hailed Ellis Jenkins’ recovery and resilience ahead of the Cardiff flanker’s return to international rugby.

Jenkins will line up against world champions South Africa on Saturday – three years after his last Test match appearance when he helped Wales beat the Springboks in Cardiff.

On that occasion, Jenkins had already delivered a man-of-the-match performance, but he suffered a major knee injury during the closing minutes and was subsequently sidelined from all rugby for 26 months, with the 2019 World Cup among goals that cruelly vanished from his radar.

Wales v South Africa – Autumn International – Principality Stadium
Ellis Jenkins in action for Wales against South Africa in 2018 (David Davies/PA)

The 28-year-old is now poised to win his 12th cap – 1,078 days after the 11th – packing down in the back-row alongside Dragons pair Taine Basham and Aaron Wainwright.

“I remember the injury,” Pivac said. “I’ve had a similar injury myself and know what it is like – it’s not pleasant and a long, hard slog.

“Just to see those injuries, you have to look away at times because they are not nice and you know from personal experience what they have to go through.

“Until you have one of those, you don’t quite realise. It’s very tough.

“For Ellis to come back now and actually be playing against the same opponent, for him it’s going to be a very special day.

“He is a very motivated young man, clearly, to come out the other end of what he has had to go through, and he has had a few setbacks along the way.

“He is a very intelligent rugby player, knows what he wants to get out of the game and what he can offer the game, too.

“He was smart enough not to come back until he felt he could contribute at the top level of the game. He has probably got two years of watching and frustration, and he will just be excited to get out there.”

Alun Wyn Jones File Photo
Alun Wyn Jones is among Wales’ absentees against South Africa (Steve Haag/PA)

While Jenkins is back in the fold, Pivac is without a raft of top players against the Springboks, including British and Irish Lions Alun Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, George North, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau, Ross Moriarty and Josh Navidi.

But at least recent history favours the reigning Six Nations champions against South Africa, with Wales unbeaten against them in Cardiff since 2013, winning four successive games.

Pivac added: “If we’ve got 15-16 players missing, it’s about who we can build into the programme, learn about and build depth. Development and trying to get results are really important.

“The development side of it grows, in terms of what we can gain from this autumn series. Obviously, every time we take the field we know we are representing our country and a win is what we are after.

“Nothing changes in that respect – it’s a results-driven game – but you have got to play the hand you are dealt sometimes.

“And at the moment this is about some development opportunities for some players, and other more experienced players to hold on to their positions and push on to a World Cup.

“There is motivation for everyone in the squad, there is no doubt about that, and we will be doing our utmost to get the right result.”

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