Rugby Union / Five Nations Focus: Llewellyn made captain as Evans loses battle for fitness

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The Independent Online
IEUAN EVANS last night lost his fitness fight and passed the captaincy of the unbeaten Welsh against France at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday to the pack leader, Gareth Llewellyn, whose powers of leadership were successfully tested on last summer's tour of southern Africa.

France also lost their right wing yesterday when Philippe Bernat- Salles pinched a nerve in his neck during training and was succeeded by a new cap, Emile N'tamack of Toulouse.

Evans stretched his left shoulder near the end of Wales's win in Ireland 12 days ago. Since then a neat piece of news management has kept hope alive and instead of Evans it is Nigel Davies, for whom the prospect was purportedly far less promising, who is ready to play. In the end, Evans decided the risk of long-term damage was too great.

Simon Hill, thrice capped on tour and Evans' replacement in Dublin, carries on for the captain, with the former Olympic hurdler, Nigel Walker, resuming after concussion in the ill-fated left-wing position instead of Wayne Proctor, whose season ended with a double fracture of the jaw at Lansdowne Road.

A more dramatic selection is the dropping of Anthony Clement, at full-back in favour of Mike Rayer. Clement, recovered from a bruised calf, will replace Davies if the centre's pelvic injury suffers a relapse.

'Tony, by his own high standards, is not playing as well as he was,' Alan Davies, the Wales coach, said. 'Mike has been pushing him hard and we hope we can get into the position of having to make hard choices between players of this quality in all positions in the future.'

England are increasingly concerned over their own doubtful player, Ben Clarke, whose chance of facing Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday diminished yesterday when the team gathered at The Stoop.

Clarke's injured arm, pinned underneath his Bath club-mate, Andy Reed, in the Scotland game, is not responding quickly enough to treatment and he has been referred to the England surgeon with a view to a final decision being made today. 'We don't want Ben's injury developing into a long-term thing,' Geoff Cooke, the England manager, said. 'We would rather he missed one match than three.'

In Clarke's absence, Tim Rodber would move to No 8 from blind-side flanker. Yesterday John Hall, dropped in favour of Rodber for this game, was summoned to The Stoop and placed on stand-by along with the back-row bench replacement, Steve Ojomoh, to fill the vacancy, should one occur.

WALES (v France, Cardiff, Saturday): M Rayer; S Hill, M Hall (Cardiff), N Davies (Llanelli), N Walker (Cardiff); N Jenkins (Pontypridd), R Moon; R Evans (Llanelli), G Jenkins (Swansea), J Davies (Neath), P Davies (Llanelli), G O Llewellyn (Neath, capt), E Lewis, S Quinnell, M Perego (Llanelli). Replacements: A Clement (Swansea), I W Jones (Llanelli), R Jones (Swansea), H Williams-Jones (Llanelli), R McBryde (Swansea), A Copsey (Llanelli).