Rugby Union: Howard aims for hat-trick

The Wales rugby union side today face their Australian nemesis. Robert Cole reports
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Wales must be sick of the sight of the Australian Pat Howard. He has tormented the Welsh players three times this year and has it in mind to pile on more agony for the Barbarians against Wales at Cardiff Arms Park today.

The versatile 22-year-old, who has figured at stand-off and centre for the Wallabies this year, was a key figure when Australian Capital Territory thrashed Wales 69-30 on their summer tour Down Under.

Howard got a try in that game, another as Australia ran out 56-25 victors in the first Test, and then helped his side to clinch the series with a 42-3 triumph in the second Test.

When it comes to the Baa-Baas style of play, Howard is very much at home and today he will be searching for a Barbarian hat-trick. Last weekend he was at the heart of the 48-45 victory over Scotland at Murrayfield and 20 months ago he teamed- up with Robert Jones at half-back as the Barbarians beat South Africa 23-15 at Lansdowne Road.

Yet for all his success against Wales this year, Howard has come to respect Jonathan Humphreys' team. What the Welsh captain will be looking for is a morale-boosting win and for the home crowd to appreciate the style the coach Kevin Bowring is intent on taking through to the 1999 World Cup.

"I felt Wales learned a lot during the series against us. When I played for ACT against them they were quite ordinary, lost their focus and didn't seem fit enough," Howard said.

"But in the first Test they really had a go and by the end of the tour they were playing some good rugby. There is some real talent there.

"I thought scrum-half Rob Howley was quite exceptional and Wallaby skipper John Eales said the Welsh line-out was the best one we hit all year. They have the makings of a good side."

Wales, with a congested season that includes five capped matches before Christmas, launch that programme with a side including 12 of the team beaten 42-3 in Sydney.

A shoulder injury has ruled Hemi Taylor out of having a back row showdown with his New Zealand cousin Arran Pene, so Bowring will have to monitor closely the experiment of playing two recognised open-side flankers in the new caps, Martyn Williams and Kingsley Jones.

Stiffer tests lie ahead for Wales: France (25 September), Italy (5 October), Australia (22 November) and South Africa (15 December), but a first win in three over the Baa-Baas is a must for the new professional team.

n Olivier Roumat, the lock forward who was to have been the first Frenchman to captain the Barbarians, last night pulled out with a back injury.

WALES (v Barbarians, Cardiff Arms Park, today: W Proctor (Llanelli); I Evans (Llanelli), L Davies (Cardiff), N Davies (Llanelli), G Thomas (Bridgend); N Jenkins (Pontypridd), R Howley (Cardiff); C Loader (Swansea), J Humphreys (Cardiff, capt), J Davies (Neath), G Llewellyn (Harlequins), D Jones (Cardiff), K Jones (Ebbw Vale), S Williams (Neath), M Williams (Pontypridd). Replacements: J Thomas (Cardiff), A Thomas (Swansea), P John (Pontypridd), P Arnold (Swansea), L Mustoe (Cardiff), B Williams (Neath).

BARBARIANS: A Arrieta (Biarritz); A Bose (Mana), S Glas (France), R Dourthe (France), N Walker (Wales); P Howard (Australia), A Pichot (Argentina); A Watt (Scotland), J Hay (Scotland), R Snow (Canada), R McCall (Australia), A N Other, M Gasuna (Mana), A Pene (New Zealand), D Corkery (Ireland). Replacements: R Evans (Wales), P John (Pontypridd), R Collins (Wales), R Jones (Wales), P Burke (Ireland), S Davies (Swansea).

Referee: Jim Fleming (Scotland).