Ellis Jenkins has set his sights on winning back his Wales place as he continues to impress following his return from a lengthy lay-off.
The 27-year-old spent more than 800 days on the sidelines after sustaining a horror knee injury in the closing stages of a famous 20-11 victory over South Africa in November 2018.
Jenkins was named man of the match against the Springboks but he has been unable to pull on the famous red jersey since, with last year’s lockdown delaying his scheduled second operation.
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But the flanker never lost his determination to return to the field and made his long-awaited comeback for club side Cardiff Blues in a friendly against Ospreys last month.
Excellent Guinness PRO14 displays against Connacht and Munster, against whom he earned man of the match honours, have followed and Jenkins hopes to build on those displays as he targets an international comeback.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I was expecting to take a while to get back up to speed,” he told BBC Wales.
“There’s obviously still bits of my game that I want to improve and work on.
“Physically I’ve still got a bit of work to do, but as far as the first couple of games back, I’m pretty happy with the way it’s gone.
“First things first for me was just seeing if I could string a couple of weeks of games and training together.
“For me, it’s just been training as hard as I can and doing everything I can to make sure the knee doesn’t swell up.
“So once that’s out of the way – the Guinness Six Nations came a bit soon – if I can keep playing well for the Blues then I’m not sure if there’s a summer tour going ahead this year or whatever, but that (a Wales recall) would definitely be something I’d be aiming for.”
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The 11-cap ace, whose sole Championship appearance to date came against Italy in 2018, is set to add to Wayne Pivac’s wealth of back-row options in the weeks and months to come.
Chief among his competitors would be Dan Lydiate had the flanker not sustained a knee ligament injury of his own on his international comeback against Ireland in Round 1 and Jenkins, who has reflected openly on his time on the treatment table, knows better than anyone how his compatriot will be feeling.
“There were a couple of setbacks along the way,” Jenkins said “It was tough, obviously, but it was a process that we had to go through and we were doing everything right.
“Unfortunately some people heal faster than others and it took a bit longer than expected. But it was a long old time.”
Wales resume their quest for a Grand Slam against Italy at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday in the first game of Round 4.