Rugby Union: Morgan's on mend for Wales

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THE PONTYPRIDD full-back Kevin Morgan last night gave Wales' World Cup hopes a welcome lift when it was revealed that he hopes to recover from a knee injury in time for the big event in October.

The 22-year-old was ruled out of the current tour to Argentina and was also expected to miss the World Cup after damaging medial knee ligaments last month. But the Pontypridd chief executive, Cenydd Thomas, said: "He had a knee operation two weeks ago and the prognosis at the moment looks very good. Kevin still won't be ready for the start of the season but he could be back sooner then we originally thought."

Meanwhile, another highly rated full-back, the Australian international Matthew Burke, will make his return to representative rugby for New South Wales when they meet the Irish tourists at the Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday. Burke was forced out of the game in August last year when he badly dislocated his right shoulder while scoring Australia's match- winning try against New Zealand in the third Bledisloe Cup test.

He needed a complete reconstruction and only returned to the field when he played for his club, Eastwood, two weeks ago. NSW selectors were due to name the team to play Ireland yesterday, but injuries forced them to delay the announcement for 24 hours. But an official said Burke was certain to return to the Waratahs' fold.

Another former Wallaby, half-back Steve Merrick, believes Ireland will cause Australia plenty of problems when the two sides meet later in the tour. He basis his judgement on their performance in Monday's 43-6 win against New South Wales Country in Woy Woy.

Ireland ran in five tries and Merrick, playing for the Country side, was full of praise for the Irish - in sharp contrast to his scathing views about Scotland after facing them last year.

"They didn't let us in the game, they cut us to pieces. They played brilliant football," Merrick said. "I think they're definitely playing a new type of rugby. They like to throw it around and they've got a lot of good young fellas. They will do well against Australia."

Merrick must have been impressed by the speed of the young Irish backs, four of whom made impressive international debuts, and a powerful and steadfast pack led well by veteran hooker Keith Wood and the captain Dion O'Cuinneagain.

They were given a day off yesterday before the coach, Warren Gatland, names his side today for the New South Wales match, which he said they were treating as a third Test.

Back home, the Leicester centre Jon Stuart has quit the Premiership champions to join Glasgow Caledonians. The 23-year-old has signed a two-year contract with the Scottish Super District, claiming it was the best way to enhance his chances of making a breakthrough at international level. Stuart has previously been capped at under-21 level and has also represented Yorkshire and the North of England at junior level.

"My main ambition is to play for Scotland," said Stuart, who played 26 times for the Tigers in their title-winning campaign following a long- term injury to Will Greenwood. "I believe the move to Glasgow Caledonians will provide me with the best opportunity to achieve this. Scotland's performance in the Five Nations and their style of play has inspired me greatly and the coaching staff at the Reds have told me that this is the style they intend to continue with this season."

The South African Test centre Christian Stewart, who also played in the last two Rugby World Cups for Canada, has been forced to retire because of a neck injury. He played 14 times for Canada and three for South Africa.

The 32-year-old Western Province player has been out of action since the Springboks Test against England at Twickenham in December.