Following an unforgettable summer, Ellis Jenkins is relishing the 2016-17 season with Cardiff Blues.
The 23-year-old scooped the Players’ Player of the Year gong at the 2015-16 End of Season Awards Evening and was rewarded for his fine form with a late call-up to the Wales tour of New Zealand.
Not only did Jenkins jet to the Land of the Long White Cloud but he made his senior international debut against the World Champions and featured in all three Tests.
And while the results went the way of the All Blacks it was still a summer to remember on a personal level.
Jenkins said: “It was all a bit of a whirlwind with the Wales tour but a great honour to get the call up.
“To get the phone call after the England game to say I was flying to New Zealand the next day was a bit of a shock but one of the best phone calls I’ve ever had.
“Alan Phillips (Wales team manager) phoned me.
“He told me I was going to New Zealand the next day and gave me a little bit of detail but I questioned how I was I supposed to know it wasn’t someone taking the mick.
“I knew I was on standby and Dan Lydiate was injured but it was still a shock.
“To get the opportunity to go out there and then to be involved in the three Tests wasn’t something I expected.”
Jenkins was thrilled to share the occasion with his parents, who dashed from Amsterdam to Auckland, just hours after his dad Adam completed the 350-mile plus #StayStrongForOws bike ride from Cardiff to the Dutch capital.
He continued: “It was great to have my family there, they have supported and followed me since I was 12-years-old playing rugby.
“You can probably count on one hand the amount of games they have missed. They have travelled all over the world to watch me play and to be in Amsterdam on the Thursday and then in New Zealand watching on the Saturday was a pretty big commitment.”
Jenkins is now getting back into the swing of regional life and has been put through his paces during Cardiff Blues’ pre-season preparations.
He hopes the experience of touring with Wales will rub off and improve his own game and knows he must perform for the Blues if he is to gain further international honours.
He said: “Being in that environment there are lots of players who have been there for a long time – for instance it was a nice moment to share my first cap with Alun Wyn Jones’ 100th.
“They have experience, have played in massive games and it’s just a case of learning off them, seeing how they conduct themselves in training and how professional some of them are. It confirms what it takes.
“Having that experience definitely adds to my motivation. It is something every player in Wales wants to do but you have to look after your performances for your region first.”
Wales’ Capital Region begin their pre-season friendly schedule with an away trip to Newport Gwent Dragons on August 12, before hosting Bristol on August 20.
They then kick off their Guinness PRO12 campaign against Edinburgh at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on September 3.
Danny Wilson will be aiming for a much improved start to the season than last year, where five of the six of their first league matches were on the road and all lost.
They turned their fortunes around as the season progressed but ultimately the damage was done at the start and a place in the top six was agonisingly out of reach.
Now Jenkins is determined to ensure his side come flying out of the blocks and pick up wins away from home while strengthening their BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park fortress.
He added: “Those two things came hand in hand last season, we had five of our first six away from home and lost all of them – you can’t lose five games in a row and expect to do well.
“Away games is something we have spoken about, we gave a good account of ourselves with home games last year and we want to continue that but the best teams get wins on the road as well.
“It’s all well and good running through plays without opposition and doing fitness in pre-season now but the only thing that counts is results on the pitch.
“We have put some really good foundations in place on the training pitch and have had some really tough days training, making sure everyone is fitter and stronger to put us in the best place to go against Edinburgh in our first game.”
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Tickets for the Bristol pre-season friendly on August 20 are available here.