Rugby union: Henry's search for improvement

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The Independent Online
Wales Probables 39

Wales Possibles 33

HAVING SEEN 50 players perform in two trials in the space of four days the new Wales coach, Graham Henry, will announce his first squad today.

Despite witnessing a lot of "honest endeavour and commitment" in both trials it is likely that the former Auckland Blues coach will have to include maybe 10 or more players he has never seen play before.

But it would be foolish to rule out the likes of Robert Howley, Gareth Thomas, Allan Bateman, David Young, Scot Quinnell, Rob Appleyard and Colin Charvis just because their reputations have not been backed up by a first- hand viewing.

Henry also declared that he would do what no other Welsh coach has done before and actively go looking for Welsh-qualified players. "I know of a few Super 12 players with Welsh qualifications and it is important that we get Rob Howley as much support as possible from any Welsh qualified players around the world," Henry said.

One of the first tasks for Henry will be to impart his playing style to the players and coaches at the Premier Division clubs in Wales - as well as having an impact on the referees.

He will also spend time "across the Severn Bridge, building relationships with the coaches at clubs who have Welsh players", and his weekly get- together of the national squad will be split into two camps, east and west, for general fitness work.

It is critical for not only Henry, but more importantly for the game in Wales, that the coaches at the senior clubs in Wales take on board his message. If he can convert them, then he might be able to work the oracle.

Not that Henry is suffering any illusions as to the enormity of the task ahead of him. It does not help either that his first game is against the world champions, South Africa, and that he has almost three months to wait for that game.

"I would love to have a game before we meet the Springboks. Nobody else would try to take them on without having a warm-up match," Henry said.

"We will have three Wednesdays together before we meet the Boks but, who knows, maybe with the problems over the fixtures, we might be able to fit something in."

The trial itself was of a much higher standard than Thursday night's game at Pontypridd, although the Probables had to come back from the dead in the final quarter to claw their way to victory.

In the end, it was an injury-time try by Arwell Thomas, which he also converted, that brought them victory after they had found themselves 15 points down with 20 minutes to play.

"The quality of the game was much better than Thursday. We picked the Probables as the better team and we expected them to win," Henry said. "The fact it was so close makes my job more interesting."

Probables: Tries D James 2, D Llewelyn, K Morgan, G Wyatt, A Thomas; Conversions A Thomas 2, B Hayward. Penalty: B Hayward.

Possibles: Tries N Boobyer 2, A Moore, C Billen, L Woodard; Conversion N Jenkins; Penalties N Jenkins 2.

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