Rugby Union: Quinnell a true believer

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THE WALES No 8 Scott Quinnell believes the new-found desire in the national squad can carry them through yet another searching examination against Argentina in the first Test in Buenos Aires tonight.

Quinnell has been an inspirational figure in helping Wales to an impressive three-match winning streak against France, Italy and, at the adopted home of Wembley, England at the end of the Five Nations' Championship.

The player, who has so often been chastised for his perceived lack of effort and subsequent effectiveness, is hoping the resurgence can continue at the expense of the Pumas.

Those Five Nations victories over France and England and the success in Treviso certainly provided Welsh rugby with a gentle reminder that, in this World Cup year, perhaps all is not lost.

A summer of discontent which culminated in a record defeat by South Africa, this time last year, left the game in virtual tatters when the Wales coach, Graham Henry, a New Zealander, arrived on Welsh soil. When the opening championship games against Scotland and Ireland ended in defeat, there were doubts about Wales' competitiveness as the countdown to October gathered pace.

"Winning three games as we have done is no mean achievement. The side has come together well and, to be honest, the great strength during that period has been the fact that we wanted it," said Quinnell. "We dug in, under a lot of pressure, and came out with three excellent victories.

"We have always wanted to win for our country, but I think we are starting to believe in ourselves. We think we are good enough to take on the best sides in the world. The championship is something that we have put to the backs of our minds, but the success has enabled us to go into these Tests with the right attitude."

Henry has called the Argentinian pack "the best in the world", and Quinnell agrees with that assessment: "The scrummage puts you under a lot of pressure," he said. "The way they pushed us back in our last meeting at Llanelli was incredible. However, if we work to plan I'm sure we can cope with that and beat them again.

"We've worked hard on scrummages and line-outs and, hopefully, we are a better side now than we were in November. I think we'll know on Saturday night where we stand in the world."

Wales have been forced into making two changes from the side that beat England due to an injury to the centre Scott Gibbs and a decision by Henry to opt for Matthew Robinson ahead of Gareth Thomas for the right-wing position.

Allan Bateman steps in to partner Mark Taylor in the midfield, a change that will hardly weaken Wales. "It is disappointing to be without Scott, but Allan is not a bad replacement is he?" Rob Howley, the Wales captain, said. "That is one area where we have terrific strength in depth and I am sure Allan is desperate to show what he is capable of after being injured for most of the championship season.

"This is a vital game for us and if we can win it will put us on a great footing for next week's second Test and for the build up to the World Cup."

WALES: S Howarth (Sale); M Robinson, M Taylor (both Swansea), A Bateman (Northampton), D James; N Jenkins (both Pontypridd), R Howley (Cardiff, capt), P Rogers (Newport), G Jenkins, B Evans, C Quinnell (all Cardiff), C Wyatt (Llanelli), C Charvis (Swansea), S Quinnell (Llanelli), B Sinkinson (Neath). Replacements: N Boobyer, S Jones (both Llanelli), D Llewellyn (Ebbw Vale), M Voyle (Llanelli), D Young, A Lewis, J Humphreys (all Cardiff).

ARGENTINA: D Albanese (San Isidoro); O Bartolucci (Ath del Rossario), E (Liceo Naval), L Arbizu (Brive), E Durado (Jockey Club); G Quesada (Hindu), A Pichot (Richmond); M Reggiardo (Castres), F Mendez (Northampton), R Grau (Saracens), P Sporleda (Curupayti), A Allub (Jockey Club), I Lobbe (Liceo Naval), P-J Camerlinckx (Bella Vista), R Martin (San Isidoro).