Giggs' return means Welsh hopes hang on wing and prayer

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The Independent Football

He may never play in a major international tournament but should Ryan Giggs lead Wales to victory against England at Old Trafford, it might help relieve that disappointment.

Thirteen years after his debut against Germany, the Manchester United winger is still the jewel in any Wales side and, after a two-match suspension, he returned to Mark Hughes' final squad for the World Cup qualifiers with England on 9 October and Poland.

Injuries aside, there is little doubt Giggs will play in both matches and the Poland game in Cardiff on 13 October will mark his 50th appearance for his country, a landmark he would long-ago have passed but for United's reluctance to release him for friendlies.

Despite, or maybe because of, the expectations placed upon him by the Welsh public, Giggs has seldom performed to his true ability in international football. To cover for his absence, incurred after an elbowing incident in the Euro 2004 play-off with Russia, Wales scheduled their opening two qualifiers against the weakest opposition in Group Six, Azerbaijan and Northern Ireland, a strategy that backfired with two unconvincing draws.

The views of the Portsmouth manager, Harry Redknapp, that England will completely outclass the Welsh in Manchester have not gone down well in the Principality, mainly because they contain more than a grain of truth. "It's difficult to see anywhere where Wales could hurt England," he said.

"The England players are on a different level in all honesty and I think they should be too strong for Wales. Not one Welsh player would get into the England team; maybe Ryan Giggs if he was fit because we have a problem on the left but man for man we are on another level."

Robbie Savage, who unless he can persuade the Court for Arbitration in Sport to overturn his sending-off against Northern Ireland will miss the England game, has been included to face Poland at the Millennium Stadium, which will be Hughes' managerial swan-song for Wales. Neither Rob Edwards nor Nathan Blake has recovered from injury in time to make the squad and the latter took the opportunity yesterday to announce his international retirement.