Rugby Union: Davies' power diminishes: Out-of-step Wales increase number of selectors

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The Independent Online
THE CAPTAINCY of Wales yesterday passed back from Gareth Llewellyn to Ieuan Evans. But more striking than the choice to play Japan at Cardiff Arms Park a week tomorrow is the reining-in of the power - and hence authority - of the Wales coach, Alan Davies.

Adding two selectors, Derek Quinnell and Geoff Evans, may seem like a sensible use of considerable rugby wisdom but the fact that there are now six people picking the team runs contrary to international developments at a time when selection bodies have been getting smaller.

England, to take the obvious contrast, have four - manager, coach, assistant coach and one other, precisely as Wales did until yesterday. New Zealand have just three. In addition, Davies has had his wider responsibility as 'national' coach withdrawn.

Both Quinnell and Evans were Wales forwards in the 1970s. Indeed, Quinnell was assistant coach to Tony Gray when Wales last won the Triple Crown, in 1988, and was then sacked after that year's calamitous tour of New Zealand. He is now the Wales A manager. Evans's appointment gives the Welsh Rugby Union committee a voice on selection again.

All of which reflects the desire of the committee swept in by the revolution that culminated in this week's sacking of the secretary, Denis Evans, to assert itself. Whether Ray Williams, the former secretary who now chairs the coaching and national player development committees, is Yeltsin or Rutskoi is not quite clear.

Ieuan Evans's return to the captaincy after missing Wales's successful African tour while with the Lions in New Zealand was predictable, though Llewellyn may wonder at this reward for a job well done and at the continuing preference for a wing as leader. However distinguished the wing in question, it is still not the best place for a captain.

This Welsh team are based largely on those who won all their games in Zimbabwe and Namibia, coupled with three of Wales's returning Lions: Evans, Scott Gibbs and Anthony Clement. Of the others, Richard Webster has gone to rugby league and Robert Jones is on the bench.

Having brilliantly established his inside-centre credentials against the All Blacks, Gibbs will not be best pleased at being chosen at outside-centre to accommodate Neil Jenkins between him and the preferred stand-off, Adrian Davies.

Jenkins has been moved around in each of his past five internationals. 'Neil's kicking record speaks for itself and his versatility is another bonus for us,' Robert Norster, the Wales manager, said.

Japan's wretched record in Wales means that the match is likely to be little more than a warm-up for the much stiffer opposition presented by Canada on 10 November. After the Five Nations' Championship, Wales then go on to their World Cup qualifying games in Portugal and Spain in May.

'The Japanese will be unhappy about how their tour has gone but they came with a good reputation and in a one-off situation like an international they can still be very dangerous,' Norster added. 'We mustn't forget that they did well against Argentina in the summer and have beaten Scotland in the recent past.' In fact, the recent past was 1989, when the Scots were without nine Lions.

WALES (v Japan, Cardiff, 16 October): A Clement (Swansea); I Evans (Llanelli, capt), N Jenkins (Pontypridd), S Gibbs (Swansea), N Walker; A Davies (Cardiff), R Moon (Llanelli); M Griffiths (Cardiff), A Lamerton (Llanelli), J Davies, Gareth Llewellyn (Neath), A Copsey (Llanelli), S Davies (Swansea), E Lewis, L Jones (Llanelli). Replacements: M Rayer (Cardiff), R Bidgood (Newport), R Jones (Swansea), H Williams-Jones (Llanelli), G Jenkins (Swansea), P Arnold (Swansea).

WALES A (v North of England, Pontypool, 13 October): M Back (Pontypridd); S Hill, M Hall (Cardiff), N Davies, W Proctor (Llanelli); A Willams (Swansea), R Howley (Bridgend); R Evans (Llanelli), R McBryde (Swansea), L Mustoe (Cardiff), Glyn Llewellyn (Neath), P Arnold (Swansea), H Taylor (Cardiff), S Quinnell, M Perego (Llanelli). Replacements: G Wilkins, M Lewis (Bridgend), P John (Pontypridd), R Shaw (Swansea), J Humphreys (Cardiff), A Williams (Maesteg).