Rugby Union: Fear is the key to Wales' revival

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IT USED to be taken for granted but Wales are desperate for the re-establishment of Cardiff Arms Park as a place where visitors fear - yes, fear - to tread for Saturday's Five Nations match against England.

The decibel level has diminished along with the team's fortunes and yesterday was not the first time Alan Davies, the coach, and Ieuan Evans, the captain, had sought to turn up the volume. In the interests of beating the double Grand Slammers, evidently any avenue will be explored.

For good practical reasons, Davies is especially concerned that the frenzy that always accompanies the kick-off is repeated at the start of the second half - since this, he has identified, is when his players' concentration is lowest and they are therefore at their most vulnerable.

'You get a great crescendo of noise at the start. The players get a tremendous adrenalin rush, so you sail through the first 10 minutes,' Davies said before Wales trained in Cardiff last night. 'I want the noise to build in another crescendo and have another adrenalin rush at the start of the second half.'

The trouble is that after all those years - 1967-83 - when no Five Nations visitors won at the Arms Park, they have all grown accustomed to it during the Eighties and Nineties. The crowd's only recent intimidatory gestures, apart from mindless jeering, have been showering England players with spittle.

This is not quite what Ieuan Evans had in mind when he said: 'We aim to make it fearsome again; we need to reintroduce the Cardiff element to our home games, the fact that opposition teams fear to come down here, which they haven't done over the past couple of seasons. It's going to be very much a factor in future internationals.'

Meanwhile, England's pre- match training will begin in Gloucester tomorrow and continue in private somewhere nearby (last time it was Wycliffe College, Stonehouse) on Thursday before moving to Cardiff. Final training will be on Friday at the Cardiff University grounds on the city's outskirts. Wales's final session on Friday will be behind closed doors.

The Scots have held open until tomorrow the loose-head prop place vacated first by the injured Alan Sharp before the Ireland match and then by the injured Alan Watt for Saturday's attempt to beat France in Paris for the first time in 24 years.

It is being mischievously suggested in Edinburgh that the selectors are waiting for David Sole, the retired captain, to return from Canada today to try to persuade him to provide emergency assistance. Of which there is no chance.

Richard Hill has withdrawn from the England A team to play Italy at Bath tomorrow because of an ankle injury. Northampton's Matt Dawson is promoted from the replacements and Aadel Kardooni, of Leicester, comes on to the bench.

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