RUGBY UNION: Davies denies Wales are in crisis

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The Independent Online
Alan Davies, the Wales coach, has dismissed suggestions that his team face an injury crisis three weeks before they face France in their opening Five Nations' Championship match.

But new injuries to the prop Ricky Evans (broken nose) and the flanker Hemi Taylor (hand) is of great concern to selectors as they prepare to unveil their team on January 6 for the trip to Paris.

"It is not a crisis," Davies insisted, "though it does mean you have to start again in developing players coming into an established pattern. However, we have to simply get on with things and sort matters out with the players coming into the squad. Players seem to be dropping like flies, but it is a situation out of everyone's control."

The off-field injury suffered by Taylor has left Wales with massive problems. Only one of six back-row forwards the Welsh used in the 13 internationals in 1994, Pontypridd's Richie Collins, is currently fit and available.

Scott Quinnell signed for Wigan in September; Mark Perego turned his back on the game in October; Steve Williams is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury; Emyr Lewis has an ankle in plaster; and now Taylor is in hospital facing a second operation on the hand damaged during an incident at a Cardiff wine bar over the holiday period. Taylor has been told he may be out for between six and 12 weeks, possibly ruling him out of the entire championship.

Wales will also start their defence of the Five Nations title without the wing Ieuan Evans, the full-back Mike Rayer and the centre Nigel Davies, all out with long-term injuries.

Meanwhile, Will Carling and his colleagues may be giving holiday-makers envious glances as England's World Cup squad fly to Lanzarote for a winter training weekend today.

Carling and the older players know that the sunshine break in the Canaries will be anything but a holiday. Temperatures are set to be in the high 70s and John Elliott, the England selector, has promised the 33 players plenty of warm work.

"We are booked on a pitch for two sessions on each of our three full days on the island," he said. "That should be six hard-working practices and, before and after, there will be videos and team discussions designed to prepare us as thoroughly as possible for the Five Nations and the World Cup".

The England team to play Ireland on 21 January and the A team to play their Irish counterparts the previous day should be finalised over the weekend.