Devereux answers call for depleted Wales

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The Independent Online

The former Great Britain centre John Devereux yesterday took up the challenge of lifting Wales for the knock-out stages of the World Cup.

The former Great Britain centre John Devereux yesterday took up the challenge of lifting Wales for the knock-out stages of the World Cup.

The veteran Bridgend union player has been brought in to boost the depleted squad of the Wales coach, Clive Griffiths, for next Sunday's quarter-final at the Auto Quest Stadium, Widnes, against the winners of the French group.

The 34-year-old Devereux, who was among a number of leading union men who helped Wales reach the World Cup semi-finals in 1995, has received permission from Bridgend to join Griffiths' squad for the rest of the tournament.

He watched Sunday's crushing 58-18 defeat of Wales by New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium and is hoping to be included for a quarter-final with France, Papua New Guinea or Tonga.

"I'd love to get involved in some form next weekend if selected," he said. "We have a week between games and that gives me time to work on a few things and get my eye in.

"It's been trying to happen for a few weeks but I had commitments with Bridgend. Their games are over for three weeks now so I can get down to some work with the boys. I would love to have been involved in some stage on Sunday."

Devereux returned to union with Sale in 1997 and, after two years with the Manchester club, went back to his old club, Bridgend, last year.

"That's how I expected to finish off my career," he said. "I never envisaged playing league again, but when I realised the World Cup was coming to Wales again I thought, 'Crumbs, I'd love a bit of that'.

"Rugby union is a professional game now and we train just as hard as the rugby league boys. It's a matter of getting used to the different intensity levels."

Devereux will join fellow union player Jason Critchley, of Leicester, in the Welsh squad, but, with limited resources, Griffiths has been forced to call on five players from outside Super League to bolster his weakened squad.

Wales struggled to overcome the qualifiers Lebanon in the group stages and conceded 11 tries to the rampant Kiwis, but will go into Sunday's quarter-final with realistic hopes of matching their 1995 efforts.

Devereux accepts New Zealand are genuine title contenders and argues that Wales have plenty of room for improvement.

"New Zealand are probably the only side who can beat Australia," he admitted. "I just wonder if they were at full steam on Sunday. When they want to put their mind to it they're pretty sharp. We had a lot of niggling injuries from three tough games in a week and it showed out there when we tired towards the end.

"But we dogged it, stayed in there and it would have been interesting to see how it would have turned out if there hadn't been so many turnovers and basic errors."

Devereux collected 10 Welsh caps in his spell with Widnes from 1991-96, played six times for Great Britain and was in the losing British team in the 1992 World Cup final at Wembley.