Rugby Union: Selectors ready to rule out Richards: England team to face Welsh may be announced early this week

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The Independent Online
SO DELIGHTED are they with England's fourth consecutive win in France that the selectors are considering bringing forward, to early this week, the announcement of their team - almost certainly unchanged - to play Wales at Twickenham in the climactic Five Nations' Championship match on 19 March.

This would have no special significance but for the fact that such a course would effectively remove Dean Richards's chance of returning to the side. Had he completed his recovery from a dislocated elbow, England's most-capped No 8 would certainly have played at Parc des Princes.

But the performance against France of the back row of Rodber, Ojomoh and Clarke was such that if Richards, having appeared indispensable while missing the Scottish and Irish matches, turned out for Leicester against Newcastle this Saturday it would be academic as far as England were concerned.

As Geoff Cooke, about to retire as England manager, made clear in Paris, he would much prefer there to be no league programme this weekend.

By contrast, there are no First Division matches in Wales, giving the Welsh players the luxury of a squad weekend in Cardiff in which to prepare for their attempt on the Grand Slam and Triple Crown.

Both Ieuan Evans and Nigel Davies, the threequarters who missed Wales's win over France through injury, will be fit for selection in the team to be named on Thursday, though neither played in Llanelli's drubbing by Newbridge. All of the prospective Welsh team came unscathed through Saturday's First Division matches.

'England proved their doubters wrong and despite what we have achieved this season, we will still go in as underdogs,' Evans, who will be reinstated as Welsh captain, said yesterday after studying the game in Paris. 'That's the way we like it. It means all the pressure will be on England, especially as it will be Geoff Cooke's last match.'

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