A WEEK ago several England players caused a minor furore by opting not to wear their runners-up medals after a World Cup final hammering by South Africa. Newport's Chris Jenkins had no such problems embracing his memento from Japan.

The physio was part of the Russia squad and ensured his participation medal, given to all players and management, was never far away when travelling at the tournament.

It still takes pride of place in his Rogerstone home as a memory of an unexpected World Cup.

Jenkins started his physio career with work experience under Mike Delahay at Newport RFC in 1996/97 and from there came Cardiff University, Cardiff HSOB, UWIC and then London Welsh, firstly in the English Championship and then the Premiership.

It was there he worked with Lyn Jones, who brought him back to Gwent after getting the job as Dragons boss.

When Jones became Russia head coach in August 2018 he asked Jenkins to join him in the Bears' build-up to Japan, where they would slug it out with the hosts, Samoa, Ireland and Scotland.

The underdogs scored the opening try of the tournament through Kirill Golosnitskiy and left with their heads held high thanks to their battling performances.

That, believes Jenkins, was down to the extra preparation time given to Jones and his management team in World Cup year.

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"The standard of rugby was always going to be a massive challenge but in the time we had with them the coaches were able to upskill the players," said Jenkins.

"But you also have enough time to make a dent on their physical fitness and (former WRU strength and conditioning coach) Mark Bennett was instrumental in that.

"I'd assist with trying to get players who had chronic injuries up to speed so that they could work harder in the gym.

"We'd accelerate the rehab process so that they could get back into the strength and conditioning programme.

"Russia made huge leaps and gains – we had a lot of time with the squad and that allowed us to try and get them right, ready for the intensity of the defence that we needed to have.

"They are physically strong guys, they are all good in the gym and not many people had limitations. It was just getting that 80-minute fitness up and we made a huge dent in that.

"We were able to intervene more quickly with injury issues and get players right, and that worked. Pretty much everyone was available for selection for the World Cup and that gave the coaches a headache."

Nonetheless, the schedule was cruel with the tournament opener against Japan on a Friday and then their clash with Samoa the following Tuesday.

Russia lost 34-9 in a bruising encounter, left to wonder what might have happened had Samoa been shown the right colour of cards after two yellows that were deemed to have been reds post-game.

Assessing the scene in the Kumagaya changing room, Jenkins and his fellow medics then had to get to work.

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(Jenkins with backs coach Shaun Connor and analyst Will Precious, his former Dragons colleagues)

"It was a four-day turnaround after a brutally fast, intense game against Japan. Then you go up against a Samoa side with incredible power – it was physicality meeting physicality," he said.

"I am glad we had nine days before facing Ireland! We needed it and had to get players recovered as quickly as possible.

"You are working straight away that night, using the Game Ready machines and ice baths, making sure we made quick assessments.

"It was all very efficient in Japan and that helped us to get those players ready to go and back on the training field to work on the areas that Lyn and his coaches needed to address. That nine-day period was pretty busy.

"There were some pretty big hits in that Samoa game but luckily it was bruised shoulders and elbows, contusions on backs and legs following that."

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Jenkins (pictured above with legendary Lions and Scotland doctor, James Robson) is set to continue under Jones with Russia but would also like to keep getting his rugby fix at a local level.

"I'm very passionate about concussion education and care," he said. "There were a few retirements while I was at the Dragons, which is always very sad to see.

"I'd like to try and push that education across grassroots and while I'm not with Russia I'd love to offer some consultancy to clubs across the Gwent region.

"Below the level of the Premiership the medical care can drop off quite a bit, so if I can offer my assistance and experience to clubs then it's something I'd love to do."