Rugby Union: Norster pleads for a broader vision in Wales

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The Independent Online

The mood of Welsh rugby lurches between triumph and despair in the time it takes Neil Jenkins to pot a penalty goal, and as the latter has lately taken hold, Robert Norster yesterday beseeched the team's many domestic critics to let his boys be.

Successive defeats by South Africa, France and England have left last season's Five Nations champions anxious about the silverware being replaced by a wooden spoon, so when the players gathered in Cardiff to prepare for Saturday's game in Scotland, their manager felt it was time to come to their defence.

"I accept that the Welsh public have a right to expect high standards from their national team," Norster said. "But I believe people have become a little bit blinkered. People are being too intense. It's very disappointing and frustrating for those of us in charge of the team. People have short memories and all this criticism doesn't help the team's performance.

"This week in the build-up to Saturday's match against Scotland, a big part of our job as management has had to be to get the players to relax and enjoy it. We don't want the players to be totally stifled. We want them to relax on the field and show confidence in themselves.''

Which was what they did last year, when Wales went three-quarters of the way to a Grand Slam, and what the Scots are doing now as they pass along the same road. "A couple of months ago, they were the ones taking criticism but things can change very quickly," Norster said. "All you need is a little rub of the green - which they've enjoyed so far this year and which we enjoyed when we won the Five Nations last season.

"Despite an injury crisis which is almost beyond comprehension, and the disruption it has caused, I still think we've shown in all three defeats that we're capable of beating sides like South Africa, France and England." And by extension, critics always permitting, Scotland.