Rugby Union: Reds and Whites do not make Blacks

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The Independent Online
GRAHAM HENRY came, he saw and did not take long to realise he is not inheriting a Welsh team to conquer the world next year. The 52-year-old former teacher turned millionaire rugby coach arrived in Wales on Wednesday and immediately launched himself headlong into what everyone in his homeland of New Zealand feels is mission impossible.

He at least got a positive response to his first venture as Wales's new pounds 250,000-a-year national coach. About 5,000 fans turned up at Pontypridd's Sardis Road to watch the first of two trials in a five-day, getting-to-know-you exercise.

After Sunday's second trial at Bridgend, Henry intends to announce the squad of players with whom he will start working towards next year's World Cup.

While there was plenty of enthusiasm shown by the 45 players used during the match, it was as much the errors as the positive points that will have stuck in Henry's mind as the Reds beat the Whites 26-17. Ball retention is of the highest order in New Zealand, ,and he will certainly be looking to inject greater dynamism into the players' approach.

But the good news for Wales was that his head didn't sink during the 80 highly competitive minutes and he said he had no thoughts of catching the first plane home at the end of his formal introduction to Welsh rugby.

"I thought the enthusiasm of the players was very good. They tried very hard, but early season games are always pretty messy, in Auckland as well as Wales," Henry said.

"There were a lot of players with potential out there and I thought they all approached the game in the right manner. It's just the structure that needs to be worked on. I play the game a certain way and that will take some time to get across."

The only downside to the evening was a repeat injury to the Cardiff lock Steve Moore, who ruptured the left knee ligament on which he had undergone an operation last season. He is expected to be out of action for some time.

As far as the action was concerned, the Reds were 5-0 ahead at half-time thanks to a try by the Swansea wing Richard Rees and three second-half tries kept them in the driving seat to the end.

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