After captaining the Australian side of the Rugby 7s for half a decade, star player Ed Jenkins has taken on a new role as a TAG Heuer ambassador – the only one in the world who can claim to be Australia’s most-capped Sevens player ever.
At thirty years of age he admits to us that he’s not exactly the newest kid on the field anymore but the fighting spirit still burns bright. Fresh off his step down from the captaincy at the 2016 Rio Olympics, we spoke to Jenkins about what makes him tick beyond the game, modelling and how not to crack under the pressure from this physically demanding sport.
“I think I’m already past the expiry date!”
Some may call it textbook marketing but for Jenkins who’s previously dipped his toes in the modelling world alongside his twin brother Jonathan, this was a watch match waiting to happen.
“I’ve always loved my fashion so it’s a great little partnership,” he says.
“TAG came on board at the start of this series with World Rugby to be a major sponsor of the 7s. I was lucky enough to get a call up and I hope we can build on it over the next few years.”
Rugby 7s is a shortened variant of Rugby Union and it’s growing rapidly in popularity. Teams consist of just seven players playing seven minute halves as opposed to fifteen players going at forty minute halves. How does it differ to the usual rugby Australia is accustomed to?
Fitness and diversity in skill is paramount in Rugby 7s, according to Jenkins.
“You need a wide array of skill set. You’re not just a specialist in one area like what you’d see in 15s. We need to be able to scrummage, lift in, line outs, play a half back role, a playmaker and a finisher.”
“So you need all the skills you’d need in 15s but it’s heightened when you’re on the 7s pitch with seven players defending and attacking at the same time.”
“Our fitness level is right up there with some of the fittest athletes running around in any sports. It keeps us in good shape and the strength is a key component we need to prevent us from injury.”
It’s this element of fast paced action and athleticism that is drawing in the crowds. Simply look at concepts such as cricket’s Big Bash League, athletics’ Nitro Athletics alongside Rugby 7s inclusion in the Olympic run sheet and you’ll notice a trend in the way traditional sports are heading.
Whether or not elements of Rugby 7s will make its way into traditional rugby is still to be seen.
“7s have been around for a long time but as people become more time poor, all the sports these days seem to be turning to shorter formats of the game,” explains Jenkins.
“It’s lucky it’s been established and has Olympic recognition already. So I think it’s heading in that direction. I’m just happy I played it many years ago and I’m still around for this great journey.”
“There’s some pretty big hits and tackles so you need some protection.”
Protection seems to be something that Jenkins values a lot more today at his age then he did as a fresh face more than a decade ago. On the notion of retirement Jenkins laughs.
“I think I’m already past the expiry date!”
“But I’m fortunate enough that my body’s treating me well. And I’m the fittest and strongest I’ve ever been. Hopefully I’ve still got plenty of years left in my legs. In saying that, you’re just one injury away from your last game. So fingers crossed I can go around for a few more years.”
If things do go happen to go awry for Jenkins, he can rest assure that himself and his equally chiselled brother have the world of modelling to fall back on. Just as the Stenmark twins made their move away from a life of AFL for the catwalk, the Jenkins twins could potentially be Australia’s next best thing.
“Actually they were at the same school as us but a few years below,” he reveals.
“I’ve seen them around a few times and they’re both into their sport and watches. No rivalry though. We went down two separate paths and they’ve had a lot of success in their areas and my brother and I have done great in the sporting field as well.”
“If the opportunity arose, I’d definitely take it on board. It’s hard though because we travel a lot with the world series which takes up a lot of time.”
“Also, being a rugby player you need to be a certain build and maintain a certain level of strength through hitting the gym a lot. That closes the door on quite a few opportunities in the modelling world.”
As Jenkins prepares to take on the world at this year’s Rugby 7s tournament, he holds caution towards the Fijians and South Africans, some of the strongest squads on the circuit at the moment. The current Australian team is young and but Jenkins believes that if they remain steadfast and fearless in their gameplay, we might just have a chance.
His prize to the team if Australia takes the cup?
“Take the team out and pick up the bar tab.”