Buckett seizes second chance

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The Independent Online
Ian Buckett, the Swansea prop, has been handed the chance to resume his international career for Wales against the American Eagles in San Francisco today. The former Oxford Blue will win his second full cap three years after his first against Tonga thanks to an ankle injury to his team-mate, Christian Loader.

It is an ironic twist of fortunes for Buckett, who was well established as Swansea's leading loose-head prop before Loader graduated to the senior ranks. However, with that cap against the Tongans in 1994 behind him everything went wrong for the 29-year-old when he severed the hamstring in his left leg in a horrific scrum accident in a club game against Cardiff.

"The injury happened in January 1995 and I couldn't run for eight months. I had to teach myself the basics of running once my leg had been rehabilitated," Buckett said. "It has been a very frustrating few years and it has been difficult to get consistent first-team rugby since Christian got into the Welsh side.

"But I managed to get back into the Swansea side last season and now I intend to make the most of my second chance with Wales."

Buckett is one of three changes from the Wales side which beat the United States 30-20 in last weekend's first Test in Wilmington, North Carolina. All the changes are in the pack.

Buckett takes over from Loader, who will be on his way home this weekend after straining an ankle ligament, and the Llanelli hooker Robin McBryde takes over from Garin Jenkins.

Buckett and McBryde used to pack down together at Swansea and also won their first caps in the win over Tonga three years ago. But the player who joined them among the debutants on that day, Steve Williams, the Neath No 8, has lost his place in the back row to Bath's Nathan Thomas.

Other than that, Kevin Bowring, the Wales coach, has kept faith with his senior players. Bowring, however, will be looking for a vast improvement on last weekend's showing, in which Wales scored four tries to two by the Eagles.

"I will be looking for an improvement in attitude and performance from the first Test. I wasn't totally happy with the way things went in Wilmington," Bowring said."

The Eagles are still waiting on a fitness check on the Bath utility forward Dan Lyle.

WALES (V US Eagles, San Francisco, today): K Morgan (Pontypridd); W Proctor (Llanelli), L Davies (Cardiff), G Thomas (Bridgend), N Walker (Cardiff); A Thomas (Swansea), P John (Pontypridd); I Buckett (Swansea), R McBryde (Llanelli), L Mustoe (Cardiff), G Llewellyn (Harlequins), M Voyle (Llanelli), A Gibbs (Llanelli), N Thomas (Bath), G Jones (Cardiff, capt). Replacements: D James (Bridgend), L Jarvis (Cardiff), A Moore (Richmond), S Williams (Neath), C Anthony (Swansea) G Jenkins (Swansea).

n Swansea are set to announce a record loss in excess of pounds 450,000 for the last financial year because of high wage bills and lower than anticipated income. Negotiated contract deals mean players of the calibre of Scott Gibbs, Arwel Thomas and Garin Jenkins will stay at Swansea for the coming season.

The cost of paying their wages, however, was based on the assumption the club would receive a share of the pounds 22m BSkyB television deal that subsequently collapsed.

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