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Wales skills coach Jenkins backs Jones to fill Howley void

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By Reuters
Wales skills coach Jenkins backs Jones to fill Howley void
FILE PHOTO: Wales team members take part in a training session before fans ahead of the start of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Kitakyushu, Japan September 16, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS   -   Copyright  KYODO(Reuters)

(Reuters) – Former flyhalf Stephen Jones has the quality and experience to seamlessly step into the role of Wales’ attack coach following the departure of Warren Gatland’s assistant Rob Howley, skills coach Neil Jenkins said on Friday.

Howley was sent home on Tuesday, six days before Wales face Georgia in their Rugby World Cup opener, over a possible breach of rules governing gambling in the sport.

But Jenkins said the 48-year-old’s replacement Jones can hit the ground running in Japan.

“The good thing with Steve is that he was a world class player. He’s doing exceptionally well as a coach, too, and he’s been in this environment before,” Jenkins told reporters.

Since playing his last test for Wales in 2011, Jones has worked as an attack coach with the Wasps and is currently backs coach for another former club in the Scarlets.

“He pretty much knows how it works. He’s a fantastic person and I think he knows a lot of the systems we play and will get into it pretty quickly,” Jenkins said.

“I’m sure he’ll bring a lot of good things to this team.

“Pretty much everything has been put in place for Monday. It has been for some time, and we are ready to rock on that. We will just keep moving forward,” he said.

Jenkins said the departure of Howley, Gatland’s right-hand man and sometimes replacement in 11 years as Wales coach, was tough to take personally.

“It’s obviously very difficult. He’s a close friend of mine. It’s not ideal, but it is what it is. It’s happened and we have to move forward,” he said.

“Steve has arrived here now and he’s a good man as well. The boys have trained well. It’s the same as anything. The show goes on, and we have got to look forward and try and put it behind us.”

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Tom Hogue)