Bowring picks unchanged team

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The Independent Online
Rugby Union

STEVE BALE

Kevin Bowring yesterday named an unchanged Wales team for Saturday's match against Scotland in Cardiff - which, though marginally less predictable than than the Scots' decision to do the same, could hardly have been otherwise given the encouragement the coach has publicly taken from the defeat at Twickenham.

If selection stability can foreshadow success, Wales are on the way. Though it will be the first Five Nations appearance at the Arms Park for no fewer than seven Welshmen - including the captain, Jonathan Humphreys - this is the first unchanged Wales team in three years.

The contrast in responses to the Twickenham game might suggest that Wales rather than England had won it, though Bowring has now revised his thinking so as to place a decent scrummage at the top of his priorities. "I was conscious that we hadn't done as much practice with our scrummaging as we should in our build-up to that game," he said.

This demonstrates that the coach, as much as his players, is learning as he goes along. Hence another plea for patience yesterday, consistent with his own patience with the team who faced England. He hopes, for instance, that this week's work means Andrew Lewis's travails at loose-head prop against Jason Leonard will not be repeated against Peter Wright.

Consideration may also have been given to the back row and the claims of Neil Jenkins now that he has recovered from a shoulder injury. Curiously, though, the case for restoring Jenkins was effectively rebutted by the player himself when he deemed himself unready after his comeback game for Pontypridd last Saturday. So carry on, Arwel Thomas.

The selection came as a relief to the other Thomas, Justin the full-back, whose charged-down kick presented Jeremy Guscott with the critical English try. Though Thomas would prefer to banish those seconds from his mind, he had no chance after being summoned to the Arms Park for yesterday's team announcement.

"I was glad to see I'd been named after what happened at Twickenham," he said. "I totally blame myself. It was down to my inexperience plus the pressure of playing in the Five Nations for the first time against one of the best teams in the world. It has flashed through my mind numerous times since then but I'm trying to build on the positive things. I'm trying to forget about it."

In the spirit of glasnost pervading the Welsh , another player at the eye of a different storm also put in an appearance. Derwyn Jones, the gargantuan lock who now works for the WRU as well being a member of its pack, has displeased his employer by appearing, while using his Wales jersey as a prop, in a television advertisement for the Wales On Sunday newspaper.

Jones has reportedly been reprimanded, though yesterday he insisted the issue had been "amicably resolved". The ad concludes with Jones's 6ft 10in and 18 1/2st - in tribute to its "coverage" - clad only in sheets from the paper.

WALES (v Scotland, Cardiff, Saturday): J Thomas, I Evans (both Llanelli), L Davies (Neath), N Davies, W Proctor (both Llanelli), A Thomas (Bristol), R Howley (Bridgend) A Lewis, J Humphreys (Cardiff, capt), J Davies, Gareth Llewellyn (Neath), D Jones, E Lewis, H Taylor (all Cardiff), G Jones (Llanelli). Replacements: G Thomas (Bridgend), N Jenkins (Pontypridd), A Moore, L Mustoe (Cardiff), G Jenkins (Swansea), S Williams (Neath).

The Welsh will meet its First Division clubs in Cardiff next Monday to give its response to a pounds 12m offer the clubs say they have received from BSkyB for exclusive coverage of their matches.

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