Rugby World Cup 2011: Gethin Jenkins salutes 'best' Wales side

Gethin Jenkins
Gethin Jenkins has toured twice with the British and Irish Lions

Prop Gethin Jenkins believes Wales' World Cup side is the best team he has played in during his career.

Victory against Ireland secured Wales' semi-final spot against France in Auckland on Saturday.

"Gats [Wales coach Warren Gatland] got me before last weekend's game and asked if I thought it was the best team I had played in," Jenkins said.

"I said 'we will see on Saturday'. Afterwards, he asked me again, and I said 'yeah, it's got to be now'."

Wales' displays in New Zealand are in stark contrast to their failure four years ago, when they were eliminated at the pool stages following defeat against Fiji.

Jenkins, who was part of the Wales sides that won Six Nations Grand Slams in 2005 and 2008, says everything has fallen in its place perfectly this time, helping Wales to reach the last four for the first time in 24 years and rising two places to fourth in the International Rugby Board world rankings.

"Four years ago was very disappointing, losing to Fiji. We knew ourselves we weren't up to the task on that day," said Jenkins.

"Things have changed in the last four years. We've had our highs and lows under Warren, the Grand Slam and then a few dips.

"But it's all about the players you are bringing through and the way players and their mindsets are developing.

"Everything is in place now. You've just got to bring your talent, your bit of skill to the team and bind it all together.

"Certainly for this current group of players [the semi-final] is our biggest game. I'm sure there is a lot of hype at home, a lot of talk of people getting last-minute flights over here.

"Wales is a goldfish bowl for rugby. I don't think there is anyone who will get away from the fact there's a rugby match on Saturday.

"We knew Ireland was going to be a touch-and-go game, but we also knew if we played well that we could sneak a win.

"And France have shown over the years how good a team they are - they have beaten New Zealand and other top teams. We never have an easy game against France."

Jenkins started Wales' last three games having featured as a replacement during the pool victory over Samoa following a long injury absence from the international scene.

The 30-year-old Cardiff Blues player is among the Welsh squad's elder statesman, having won 80 caps for his country.

But Jenkins has said the contribution of the younger players, in particular captain Sam Warburton, has been key to Wales' progress.

"It is all credit to them for the way they have handled themselves," he added.

"Up until Saturday, they maybe hadn't experienced a situation like that where they had to perform at a big level with the pressure that was on us.

"But all the younger players really stood up and put us in good stead for this week. Everyone's heads were on before the game, and they took it all in their stride."