Cunningham at core of Wales challenge

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Local knowledge will be at a premium for Wales in Carcassonne tonight. Of the side who started the match that won the European Championship 15 months ago, only six players survive to start the opening game of this year's tournament.

The good news is that Wales have overcome similar handicaps in the past. "In 1992 we went to France with 17 fit players, three of whom were only fit because they had pain-killing injections," the Wales coach, Clive Griffiths, said. Wales overcame those limitations to win by a single point.

The 17 Wales will field tonight will not need as much medical attention, but they are hardly the team Griffiths would have chosen before the ravages of injury and defections back to rugby union took their toll. His consolation is that the Wales pack is largely intact.

Neil Cowie had to withdraw yesterday with a shoulder injury, but is replaced by Chris Morley. Doubts over the availability of Martin Hall, yesterday given permission to play by the Australian Rugby League, could have cost him his starting place, which will be filled by St Helens' Kieron Cunningham, one of Wales's major assets. Add the reliability of the captain, David Young, and the desire of the other prop, Mark Jones, to retain his place against England, and Griffiths has no reason to believe his front row will let him down.

FRANCE (all Paris St-Germain unless stated): Banquet; Bomati, Vergniol, Garcia (Sheffield), Cervello; Devecchi, Entat; Boudebza (St Esteve), Torreilles, Teixido, Tallec (Wigan), Cabestany, Jampy. Substitutes: Pastre- Courtine, Zenon, Lucchese, Cambres.

WALES: Atcheson (Oldham); Cordle (South Wales), Davies (Warrington), Critchley (Keighley), Sullivan (St Helens); Harris (Warrington), Stephens (Hull); Young (Salford), Cunningham (St Helens), Jones (Warrington), Moriarty (South Wales), Phillips (Workington), Perrett (Halifax). Substitutes: Hall (Wigan), Morley (St Helens), Webster (Salford), Watson (Salford).