Warren Gatland names the Wales star who has potential to be one of the all-time greats

Welsh coach Warren Gatland has named the players he has most enjoyed coaching in his career and why current captain Dafydd Jenkins can become a true great of the game.

At a fundraising event at Cefn Cribwr RFC, he took part in an Q&A session with the club’s president and former chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union, Roger Lewis.

Asked to name the players he has most enjoyed coaching in his career, which saw him win three Grand Slams with Wales in his first spell from 2008 to 2019, he said: "Shane Williams was an amazing player and pound for pound the best I have ever coached.

"I would also put Mike Phillips on the list for his infectious self-belief. I remember we were on tour and boarding a plane an airline stewardess asked Mike whether he was business or economy class. Without hesitation he said ‘I’m world class!’ Sam Warburton was also fantastic with an incredible work ethic.”

SIGN UP: Get the new exclusive Inside Welsh rugby newsletter for full insight into what's really going on around all the big issues. This special offer will get you full access for the entire year for just £10 instead of £40.

On current Wales captain and Exeter Chiefs player Dafydd Jenkins, he said: “He has the potential to be one of the truly great Welsh players over the next decade and on a par with Alun Wyn Jones. He has great rugby skills and as a young player is demonstrating so many great leadership qualities.”

Asked what made an effective captain he said: “It is the respect of the team, but also being able to hold down a place.”

On his most memorable game he recalled his first match in charge as Wales coach against England back in 2008. Wales won in what was the first victory over the ‘old enemy’ at Twickenham for more than 20 years. Wales then went on to win the Grand Slam that season.

Gatland said: “It was my most memorable win, but after the match I remember thinking you ‘lucky bugger.’ There were moments in that game we could have lost, but we kept in it. England made wrong decisions and we made the rights ones."

As for his biggest disappointment, he cited the 2011 Rugby World Cup semi-final loss against France in which Warburton was controversially red carded in the opening minutes.

Gatland recalled: "If we had won that game the final would have been something memorable indeed. We were in the game with 14 men right up to the end, but I wouldn’t take anything away from France.”

He also identified schools’ rugby as critical for the development of the game and the next generation of rugby talent. He said: “I would support and encourage investment in Welsh schools’ rugby. If you look at New Zealand it has been so critical for the development of the game there and the success that has brought.”

The Welsh coach also raised concerns over the negative impact social media can have and revealed that he and his team were “taking several measures to support Wales’ young squad.”

Over the last few years Cefn Cribwr RFC has raised £110,000 for local charities. The club is in good shape with over 140 children playing rugby, including a strong girls’ section. Having opened a new clubhouse a decade ago, it has also invested in new changing rooms, two pitches with drainage and flood lights.

Mr Lewis, who was raised in Cefn Cribwr and has been the club’s president since 2007, said: “Warren remains a good friend after 17 years of us first working together. His personal values and beliefs are rock solid and that he readily agreed to return to Cefn and to give up his precious time so freely to us all is so deeply touching. He is simply a bloody good bloke.”