There are few careers in the red of Wales as illustrious than that of Gethin Jenkins.
Capped 129 times by his country, with a further five for the British & Irish Lions, Jenkins was a lynchpin of the Welsh side during one of its most successful eras.
It was a period that earned Jenkins three Grand Slams, in 2005, 2008, and 2012 – one of only seven Welshmen to do so – as he etched himself into Welsh rugby folklore.
A master at the breakdown and a talismanic figure on the field, Jenkins was not only a Welsh legend, but one of the world’s very best looseheads.
It was a boy from Beddau who became one of the defining figures of Welsh rugby in the new millennium.
Therefore, it is perhaps fitting that Jenkins’s career started out in one of the sport’s spiritual homes in the Rhondda Valley.
Indelibly inked by its industrial mining history, it is where rugby initially flourished in Wales, and a century on from its early roots, it would birth one of the sport’s finest sons.
Jenkins started out at Beddau RFC and also turned out for Trerochy RFC before playing senior rugby for Pontypridd at the turn of the century.
While this was Jenkins cutting his teeth in professional rugby, the seeds of future success were already being sown with the side containing five of the eight forwards who would seal Wales’s first Grand Slam in 27 years.
A move to the new Celtic Warriors followed in 2003, before a switch to Cardiff Blues a year later started a career-long love affair in the capital.
Before a move to Cardiff, however, came international honours and the first of well over a century of caps.
A debut came against Romania in a 40-3 victory at the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham in a game described as ‘unconvincing’ by the BBC.
But if the performance as a whole had ‘stuttered’, there was at least one man who hadn’t: Wales had found a new member of its front row.
Three years on the international scene passed before Jenkins produced perhaps his finest moment for Wales.
With a Grand Slam beckoning, the first in a generation, Wales had to overcome Ireland at home to seal the deal.
Jenkins was never known for his try-scoring. He dotted down just four times for his country and just eight in more than 200 appearances for Cardiff, but he produced one of those four exactly when it mattered.
With just over a quarter of an hour on the clock, the prop charged down Ronan O’Gara’s kick, showed his football skills to send it forward before demonstrating a remarkably clean pair of heels to chase it down and score the first try of the game and ease Welsh nerves.
Another Grand Slam followed three years later with Jenkins now seemingly at the height of his powers, playing in every match for his country in the Six Nations between 2003 and 2009.
CLUB HONOURS, LIONS, AND GREATNESS
Yet it was not just in Welsh red that Jenkins excelled, with the blue and black of Cardiff and red of Lions equally treated to the forward’s all-action performances.
Jenkins played 218 times for Cardiff in two stints either side of a season with Toulon, and enjoyed success too as he inspired his side to European Challenge Cup glory in 2010, making them the first Welsh side to win a European trophy.
A European Champions Cup in France also came while call-ups to three Lions tours also gilded Jenkins’s career, playing all three Tests in 2005 in New Zealand before playing twice in 2009.
Injury ruled Jenkins out of action for the 2013 tour, and it was perhaps fitting that his international career had its valedictory ending in Welsh colours.
Despite being increasingly plagued by injury issues, Jenkins returned to action in time for a third Grand Slam in 2012.
It was a victory that put him in an elite club of triple Welsh Grand Slam winners alongside Gerald Davies, Gareth Edwards, JPR Williams, Adam and Ryan Jones, with Alun Wyn Jones later joining them; a pantheon in which Jenkins looks right at home.
There was more to come, too, as Jenkins took the armband in 2013 as Wales took another Six Nations title, simultaneously denying England a Grand Slam with a 30-3 victory in one of his country’s most famous wins.
Injury then took over, with a final cap coming in 2016 and retirement in 2018 but with endings impossible to script in sport, Jenkins’s farewell on the stage where he excelled the most is hard to argue with.