Rugby Union: Chirpy Welsh determined to steal Twickenham show

Kevin Bowring could barely wait to report that his chirpy and strikingly cocksure Welsh team had made only one mistake - a line-out overthrow by Barry Williams - in an otherwise faultless 25-minute training session at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff yesterday. The coach was being slightly economical with the truth, however; the Dragons made a second, far more drastic error by leaving their dressing-room door ajar.

The work-out may have been a snappy affair but the players were nowhere near sharp enough to prevent thieves relieving three of their number - Gareth Thomas and Nigel Walker, and David Young - of their wallets. Walker and Young lost the best part of pounds 500 between them while Thomas was instantly rendered a credit card-free zone. Given the fact that a fourth team member, Allan Bateman, had his car broken into in Cardiff on Wednesday night, it was blissfully ironic that the Welsh should have spent much of yesterday explaining how they intended to stage a smash and grab raid on England at Twickenham tomorrow.

Should they achieve their first Five Nations victory on English soil since 1988, Walker and company will cheerfully write off their losses. "It was revealing to discover how little money they were carrying with them to London," grinned an amused Terry Cobner, the Welsh director of rugby. "The last time we had our dressing-room infiltrated was in Dublin. I seem to remember John Perkins losing a grand on that occasion." Who said players were better off under professionalism?

Arwel Thomas' recovery from a "dead" right leg means he will take his place at the hub of an exciting Welsh back division. The Swansea outside- half had been unable to train all week, but as Bowring happily confirmed, his electric presence yesterday brought the best out of his colleagues. "It was a top-quality session, quite superb in terms of tempo, attitude and confidence," said the coach.

Bowring's assertion that there was an "element of doubt" in the minds of his opponents was largely confirmed by Roger Uttley, the England manager, who accepted that failure to win for the eighth consecutive Test would lead to "questions being asked in high places".

"We are very conscious that we need a good, winning performance this weekend. There is no panic and we are not losing our heads, but the recent scenario under which we regularly put 20 or 30 points on Wales has hanged.

"We are competing against a skilful, tough Welsh team a long way removed from the sides of the early 1990s. When we were beating them comfortably they were severely debilitated by the constant drain of talent to rugby league, but they are all back now and they have come back better players," Uttley said.

It is a long time since England felt such an overriding desire to get their excuses in early and Uttley's comments will have left the Welsh wondering exactly who are favourites. There is no doubting the identity of the underdogs in this weekend's second match between Scotland and France at Murrayfield, however.

Jean-Claude Skrela, the French coach, went out of his way yesterday to pay tribute to Scotland's traditional pride and dynamism, but agreed that his biggest concern was to guard against overconfidence. "We must remember that we have won only once at Murrayfield in 20 years," he said.

Derrick Lee, the London Scottish full-back, will make his first international start tomorrow after sneaking ahead of Rowen Shepherd in the race for the No 15 shirt. The Scots have made further changes by preferring Tony Stanger of Hawick to Leicester's Craig Joiner on the right wing and keeping faith with Dave Hilton, the loose-head prop from Bath who replaced George Graham midway through the victory over Ireland a fortnight back, as their front-row foundation stone.

SCOTLAND (v France, Murrayfield, tomorrow): D Lee (London Scottish); T Stanger (Hawick & Scottish Borders), A Tait (Newcastle Falcons), G Townsend (Northampton), K Logan (Wasps); C Chalmers (Melrose & Scottish Borders), G Armstrong (capt, Newcastle Falcons); D Hilton (Bath), G Bulloch (West of Scotland & Glasgow), M Stewart (Northampton); D Cronin (Wasps), D Weir (Newcastle Falcons); R Wainwright (Dundee HSFP & Caledonia), P Walton (Newcastle Falcons), S Holmes (London Scottish). Replacements: R Shepherd (Melrose & Caledonia), S Longstaff (Dundee HSFP & Caledonia), A Nicol (Bath), S Grimes (Watsonians & Caledonia), A Roxburgh (Kelso & Scottish Borders), G Graham (Newcastle Falcons), G Ellis (Currie & Edinburgh).

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam