Cardiff Blues prop Gethin Jenkins has set his sights on a third successive Lions tour.
The Wales international won Test caps in New Zealand in 2005 and in South Africa last summer and has now targeted more of the same in Australia in three years’ time.
Jenkins was one of 21 Magners League players to face the Springboks in last year’s three-Test series and he now intends to follow the likes of Celtic stars Brian O’Driscoll and Ronan O’Gara in making it three tours in a row.
Jenkins has established himself as one of the leading front rowers in world rugby since his international debut back in 2002 and he has no intention of letting that reputation slip any time soon.
At 29 years of age, Jenkins has plenty of rugby ahead of him but he does admit that the 2013 Lions tour could be the perfect way to end his stellar career.
“I will be targeting a third Lions tour, but that is something for the future,” Jenkins told the Western Mail.
“I don’t think I will go on much longer than that. The game is so much more physical now and a Monday or a Tuesday after a game are a write-off.
“The season is all about recovery and being fit for the next game. If the game was only about playing on a Saturday, this would be a helluva life.
“Players do a lot more rehab and spend more time with physios than ever before.
“You cut down on drinking as much as you can because you realise it can take longer for you to recover.
“That doesn’t mean you don’t celebrate or drown your sorrows after a big game, but you do realise you have to knuckle down and look after yourself properly.
“But players play at 36 and 37 and it’s all about how far your body takes you.”
Although Jenkins intends to call it a day when his powers begin to wane, he has taken heart from the example of Blues colleague Martyn Williams.
The Wales openside has himself made a hat-trick of Lions tours, finally winning a Test start in 2009, two years after announcing his retirement from international rugby.
Williams has shown how hard work and a tailored training programme can prolong a career even at the top level of the game.
But while Williams’ form and fitness has acted as reassurance, the fate of another Lions team-mate has provided a reminder of the precarious nature of the sport.
Saracens No8 Michael Owen skippered the Lions against Argentina in 2005 but has since been plagued by injury and was eventually forced to retire due to chronic knee problems. Ironically, Owen is the same age as Jenkins.
“Hanging around with someone like Martyn, you realise that you have to look after your body, but also what you have to do to do that. You have specific programmes to help prevent injuries,” added Jenkins.
“I have really targeted getting fit this summer and being as fit as I can. The older I get, the harder it gets to be fit. When I was younger, I could fit in two weeks.
“I am fully fit and, touch wood, will stay injury free for the whole of next season. With injuries, you do lose your fitness because you train and run less. It can be a losing battle.
“When you see someone like Michael, who I played alongside, retire, it does remind you how ruthless this game can be.
“He failed a couple of medicals and it’s a reminder of what a fragile and short career it can be.”