Rugby Union: Stephens' fall from favour is complete

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The Independent Online
THE FALL of Colin Stephens after the decline in his form which followed the Wales-Australia game two months ago reached its grim conclusion yesterday when the Llanelli outside-half lost his international place. He had already been dropped by the Scarlets.

So while Steve Lloyd, who has lived his life in the Midlands after being born to Welsh parents in Uruguay, was finally opting for Wales rather than England, Stephens was pondering how to reactivate a career that has fallen away as dramatically as his confidence. He is not in the squad of 42 named for the England game in Cardiff on 6 February and the B international against the Netherlands in 's-Hertogenbosch the same day.

His successor when the senior team are announced next Tuesday is almost certain to be his immediate predecessor, Neil Jenkins, since Adrian Davies, the other stand-off in the squad, is not thought to have persuaded the selectors that he can function successfully when the pressure is at its most severe. The selection would be highly debatable - and the debate will undoubtedly continue.

As for Lloyd, he has been keen to have his mind made up for him ever since he first played for the Midlands divisional side and the Welsh Exiles in 1989, his criterion having always been which country demonstrated more interest. Although a Wales B cap would not be a disqualification to representing England, since there are no rules on the subject, the 24-year-old Moseley lock's choice can be taken to be irrevocable.

'I am absolutely thrilled and it's a great honour,' he said. 'To be fair, England have not spoken to me or shown any interest in me. Wales have made the first positive move and it is now up to me to prove myself.' Lloyd is of dimensions - 6ft 6in and 18st 8lb - more familiarly found in England than Wales; hence Welsh interest. He was an impressive contributor to the Midlands' draw with the divisional champions, the South-West, last month and also showed up well for the Barbarians against Leicester at Christmas.

The Welsh Rugby Union hopes to put an end to the infighting which has followed the resignation of its honorary treasurer, Glanmor Griffiths, at a special general meeting next month when it will answer point by point the allegations of impropriety and abusive and aggressive behaviour Griffiths has made against the full-time WRU secretary, Denis Evans, and others.

WALES SQUAD (Five Nations' Championship v England, Cardiff, 6 February, and B international v Netherlands, 's-Hertogenbosch, 6 February): Full-backs: M Rayer (Cardiff), A Clement (Swansea), I Jones (Llanelli). Wings: I Evans (Llanelli, capt), S Ford (Cardiff), W Proctor (Llanelli), N Walker (Cardiff). Centres: M Hall (Cardiff), S Gibbs (Swansea), N Davies (Llanelli), R Bidgood (Newport), N Boobyer (Llanelli). Outside-halves: N Jenkins (Pontpridd), A Davies (Cardiff). Scrum-halves: R Jones (Swansea), R Moon (Llanelli), R Howley (Bridgend), P John (Pontypridd). Props: I Buckett (Swansea), R Evans (Llanelli), J Davies (Neath), H Williams-Jones (South Wales Police), L Mustoe (Pontypool), R Shaw (Bridgend). Hookers: N Meek (Pontypool), R McBryde (Swansea), A Lamerton (Llanelli), A Thomas (Neath). Locks: P Kawulok (Cardiff), A Copsey (Llanelli), P Arnold (Swansea), S Lloyd (Moseley), S Roy (Cardiff), Gareth Llewellyn (Neath). Flankers: A Reynolds (Swansea), E Lewis (Llanelli), H Stone (Cardiff), R Webster (Swansea), M Perego (Llanelli), No 8s: S Davies (Swansea), S Legge (South Wales Police), A Williams (Maesteg).