Sterling Six Nations displays will give Gatland Lions selection headache - Jenkins

Wales assistant coach Neil Jenkins has been impressed with the quality on show in this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship
Wales assistant coach Neil Jenkins has been impressed with the quality on show in this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship

Neil Jenkins believes that the intensity of this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship will contribute to "a good few headaches" in selection for British and Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland.

Two thirds of the games so far have been decided by six points or less, with only Italy finding themselves way off the pace.

And with some huge contests still to come, potentially highlighted by England's trip to Dublin next month, Gatland's player selection pool could further expand as he builds towards the New Zealand tour squad announcement on April 19.

Asked about the Six Nations so far this term, Wales assistant coach Jenkins said: "There are a couple of things - the (bonus) points-scoring system and teams intent on wanting to score tries and maybe play a different brand of rugby, and the biggest one of all is the Lions.

"For these players at the top-end of the game, whether it be in Wales, England, Scotland or Ireland, it is a unique thing to be involved in, the Lions.

"It happens once every four years, so, more often than not, these players empty the tank.

"The autumn is important, but it's nothing compared to what the Six Nations is.

"There is a trophy at stake, and there is a Lions tour at stake at the end of it, and every single player who is involved in any of these squads will want to give it their best and try to stake a claim for a Lions spot in the summer, and none bigger than a tour of New Zealand."

Fly-half is an area of particular strength, with the likes of Johnny Sexton, George Ford, Owen Farrell, Finn Russell and Dan Biggar among those set to exercise Gatland's thought process.

"Johnny Sexton is not playing at this minute, but he is a world-class 10 who was outstanding with the Lions four years ago," Jenkins added.

"Paddy Jackson has been playing very well; you've got George Ford, Owen Farrell, who is exceptional at 10 or 12; Dan (Biggar) with ourselves; and obviously Finn Russell, who is a very good player as well.

"That's just talking about the 10s, let alone all the other positions. I am sure 'Gats' and the staff will have a good few headaches when the time comes for selection.

"There are a lot of big games to come yet, and it will be quite interesting to see how it unfolds.

"I thought Dan was huge on Saturday (against England). I thought his all-round contribution was massive. He had a big game and certainly put a marker down going forward.

"There are a lot of good 10s out there, but I am biased, I am Welsh, and I am a massive fan of Dan.

"I think he is an outstanding player, and he would certainly fit into any Lions squad as far as I am concerned."

Wales have been dusting themselves down following a 21-16 defeat against Six Nations title holders England three days ago, with a first Six Nations victory over their fierce rivals since 2013 only denied them by Elliot Daly's 75th-minute try.

"To be winning for long periods of the second half and to lose it was devastating and hard to take," Jenkins said. "The boys put in an incredible shift.

"It's hard losing a Test match of that magnitude and picking yourself up afterwards, but we have to and get back on the horse and go again. It's another big Test match a week on Saturday (against Scotland).

"We were at home and expected to win. England are the second-best side in the world, rightly so, and have got a lot of strength in depth, but we should have won.

"We were in position to win, but it is just disappointing we didn't close it out."

Jenkins, meanwhile, has backed wing Alex Cuthbert, who was blamed by many on social media in Saturday's aftermath for Daly's late try.

"For some reason, everybody seems to pick on 'Cuthy' at this moment in time," Jenkins said.

"But, as I keep telling Alex, Grand Slam, (Six Nations) Championship, Lions, try-scoring winning winger - that's not bad, is it? If someone is going to say to me you are going to do something like that in your career, I would think you would put your hand up and say, 'I'm not that bad a player'.

"He has been outstanding for Wales, and my view is that we get behind players and don't criticise them."