Gethin Jenkins is the perfect role model for youngsters coming through the Cardiff Blues system, according to Wales international Dillon Lewis.
The 22-year-old started alongside the club captain in the front row as Wales’ Capital Region sealed a place in the final four of the Challenge Cup with a 20-6 win over Edinburgh on Saturday. Jenkins, who is Wales’ record cap holder, was an idol for Lewis while he was growing up.
According to Lewis, the former British and Irish Lions star leads by example and, alongside fellow internationals such as Sam Warburton, inspired Lewis to play for his home region.
“One of the most influential players for myself is Gethin Jenkins. The standards he sets and what he thrives for is something for us youngsters to look up to. It goes to show, the success he’s had as a player and one of the reasons is the standards he drives,” said Lewis.
“I chased him for an autograph many times as a kid and I started watching him during his Pontypridd-era and then for Cardiff Blues, Wales and the Lions, of course.
“It would be great if I could start every week, but the things I can learn from the likes of Gethin and Fa’ao are priceless. Something I’m trying to make the most from while I play alongside them is the knowledge they can pass down.
“Something ridiculous like 13 boys I’ve been involved in the academy with were involved in the win over Munster.
"There are a lot of youngsters coming through now and even the likes of Ellis Jenkins and Macauley Cook are still considered young but are experienced and have taken senior roles with the squad. But it’s easy to forget that they’re only 24 or 25 years old.
"It’s exciting to have such a young squad and everyone is stepping up and playing well.
“Obviously, I’m a Ponty boy and I love playing for Pontypridd’s and through the juniors. But I came through the Cardiff Blues academy from a young age and you watch the likes of Gethin Jenkins and Sam Warburton play for the region, and it’s who you aspire to play for.
“As cliche as it’s sounds, us youngsters want to play for the badge, that really shows from the performances and it’s good to see.”
The young prop is also excited for the challenge ahead over the next few weeks, as his side head into the business-end of the season with all to play for on both European and domestic fronts.
The Blues head to South Africa with an opportunity to put pressure on third-place Cheetahs for a place in the PRO14 play-off, while they face a home Challenge Cup semi final against Pau upon their return from the Rainbow Nation.
Lewis said: “It’s really good to be at the back end of the season with a lot to play for. If we head out to South Africa and get something out of the game against Cheetahs, then it will put us in good stead to really kick on in the PRO14, which is mad, really.
“It’s exciting and with the European semi final as well, it shows around the camp because all the boys have a buzz and it allows us to play confident rugby.
“In terms of the gameplan against Edinburgh, the boys did really well and it was a new experience for myself because I’ve never been involved in a game of that size for Cardiff Blues in the past, and it was great to get the win."