Rugby Union: Gibbs aims to give Wales reason to applaud

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STRADEY PARK at 5.30 this afternoon will be no place for the faint- hearted. The moment the bulldozer of an Argentinian pack goes head-to- head with the fire-breathing scrummage of Wales the needle is likely to go off the Richter Scale.

However well Wales performed against the world champions of South Africa last week, there is no getting away from the fact that they still lost in the end. And no one is more aware of that fact than the players themselves.

The Wales and Cardiff hooker Jonathan Humphreys will be at the epicentre of today's action and he said: "I think there is a danger of the Welsh public expecting too much. When the side shows a glimmer of light everyone gets carried away, which is great, after all they have been down for such a long time, and I like to see a smile on their faces.

"But the players have kept their feet firmly on the ground all week. We believe we should have won last week. It is all very well people applauding us into receptions and congratulating us as they have been doing over the last few days, but they are doing that for what? We lost."

Humphreys, who steps out today for his 28th cap, is backed by team-mate Shane Howarth, a former All Black who won his first cap for Wales, playing an inspired game at full-back, in last week's spirited match at Wembley. Howarth, 30, said: "The disappointment stayed with me for the whole of last Sunday. Those sort of opportunities don't come along all that often, to be three points up on the world champions with nine minutes to play.

"At the moment we are zero for one, we have not won yet. As good as it is to have the public right behind us we consider we haven't done anything." And he is confident that if the Welsh pack does its stuff and Scott Gibbs is in the mood then the Pumas can be beaten.

"Gibbsy was mumbling to himself because he thought he had a quiet game. I disagreed," said Howarth. "He was grumpy after the game - yet he didn't play all that poorly. It's good that he was grumpy, because he will be on fire against the Argentinians." But Howarth realises the match will be no walkover: "Their tight five is one of the best in the world."

Gibbs himself sees this match as the keystone to Wales' immediate future: "The foundations were laid at Wembley. We showed guts and attitude. Llanelli is the home of rugby in Wales and it is important we don't let ourselves down. But we are under no illusions, the Argentinians are a physical and mobile side."

Humphreys added: "They are the best scrummagers in the world. If we don't meet them head on then we are in for a very tough evening. They have lost narrowly to France and Italy, two tough sides to beat at home, and they have done well up front each time. From the front five's point of view this is going to be the toughest match we have played for a long time."

Even the news that prop Roberto Grau is out after limping off in the loss to France last weekend does not mean a lightening of the burden, because his place at loose head goes to the formidable Mauricio Reggiardo of Castres.

Wales still have it all to do. A nation holds its breath.

WALES v ARGENTINA

at Stradey Park, Llanelli

S Howarth Sale 15 M Contepomi Newman

G Thomas Cardiff 14 I Corleto CUBA

M Taylor Swansea 13 J Orengo Atletico de Rosario

S Gibbs Swansea 12 L Arbizu Brive

D James Pontypridd 11 F Soler Tala

N Jenkins Pontypridd 10 F Contepomi Newman

R Howley Cardiff, capt 9 A Pichot Richmond

A Lewis Cardiff 1 M Reggiardo Castres J Humphreys Cardiff 2 F Mendez Northampton

C Anthony Swansea 3 O Hasan Wellington Lions

C Quinnell Richmond 4 P-L Sporleder Curupayti, capt

C Wyatt Llanelli 5 A Allub Jockey

C Charvis Swansea 6 M Durand Champagnat

M Williams Pontypridd 7 M-A Ruiz Teque

S Quinnell Richmond 8 P-J Camerlinckx Regatas

Referee: A Lewis (France) Kick-off: 5.30pm (S4C)

Replacements: M Rayer (Cardiff), N Boobyer (Llanelli), D Llewellyn (Ebbw Vale), D Morris (Swansea), M Voyle (Llanelli), B Evans (Swansea) B Williams (Richmond).

Replacements: D Albanese (San Isidro), M Ledesma (Curupayti), E Simone (Liceo Naval), N Miranda (Hindu), C Lobbe (Liceo Naval), R Martin (San Isidro), M Scelzo (Hindu).

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