Rugby Union: Evans shoulders Welsh hopes: Championship leaders look forward to French test

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The Independent Online
WITH hope still alive, the Wales selectors yesterday included all but one of their Dublin casualties in a squad of 22 for the French match at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday week - including even Ieuan Evans, who played to the end of the win over Ireland despite injuring his left shoulder.

The championship leaders' captain had further tests yesterday and the injury, first diagnosed as a dislocation, was shown to be badly strained. So he is now being a chance of playing. Robert Norster, the Wales manager, said last night: 'Ieuan is definitely in with a chance of playing against the French. It is all dependent now on how he reacts to intensive physiotherapy treatment in the next seven to 10 days.'

Had it been the right shoulder, which Evans has dislocated five times, he would have no chance. If he plays, he will equal the 97-year- old Welsh captaincy record of 18 matches set by one of the fabled figures of Welsh rugby history, Arthur Gould of Newport. If not, Gareth Llewellyn, present pack leader and last summer's captain on tour in Africa, is the obvious alternative.

Wales have had to delete Wayne Proctor after the left wing's double fracture of the jaw but, as well as Evans, Nigel Davies is included despite a groin injury. Likewise Anthony Clement, who suffered a calf strain and would probably be moved from full-back to centre if Davies did not recover. If necessary, Simon Hill would replace Evans on the right wing.

Nigel Walker, who missed the Irish match after being concussed against Scotland, returns to the squad and will also be back in the team instead of Proctor provided he comes safely through a game for Cardiff against Cambridge University on Saturday.

Llanelli's exciting wing-cum-full- back Ian Wyn Jones is the other addition and nine more players have been invited to attend squad training in Cardiff this weekend, when the Welsh selectors have a luxury their English counterparts would dearly like by having a Saturday virtually free of First Division fixtures.

Wales already know they will be going for the Triple Crown when they play England; it would be for the Grand Slam if they somehow beat the French for the first time since 1982. 'There isn't a thought of a Grand Slam in our minds,' Norster added. 'There is a stark realism in the camp about where we are coming from and what is ahead of us.'

Where Wales are coming from is two successive Five Nations wins for the first time since their last Triple Crown championship in 1988 but before them an embarrassing defeat by Canada which has been enough to keep realism, as well as hope, alive ever since. 'The win in Ireland will have increased confidence in the team again,' Alan Davies, the Wales coach, said.

'And when they see the Scottish performance against England they will realise that it really is about the flesh and blood that take the field.'

WALES SQUAD (v France, Cardiff, 19 February): Full-backs: A Clement (Swansea), M Rayer (Cardiff); Wings: I Evans (Llanelli, capt), S Hill (Cardiff), I Jones (Llanelli), N Walker (Cardiff); Centres: M Hall (Cardiff), N Davies (Llanelli); Outside-half: N Jenkins (Pontypridd); Scrum-halves: R Jones (Swansea), R Moon (Llanelli); Props: J Davies (Neath), R Evans, H Williams-Jones (Llanelli); Hookers: G Jenkins (Swansea), R McBryde (Swansea); Locks: A Copsey, P Davies (Llanelli), G O Llewellyn (Neath); Flankers: E Lewis, M Perego (Llanelli); No 8: S Quinnell (Llanelli).