Rugby Union: Wales pick power prop Evans

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The Independent Online
WALES yesterday entrusted the nullifying of Jeff Probyn to a fireman who used to be in the Army and whose previous sporting achievements include finishing sixth in a Devizes-to-Westminster canoe race and fourth in a televised strongest-man contest.

Ricky Evans, one of two new caps for the England match at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday week, is serenely untroubled by Probyn's reputation for awkwardness and has no intention of defacing his first international jersey by cutting off the left sleeve in the manner of other props who have packed down against the veteran Englishman.

'I've never played against the gentleman before,' Evans said. He may not be so polite after he has done so. His opportunity, at 31, comes after the mountain-bike crash in Lanzarote which put Mike Griffiths out of the Championship. Fortuitous or not, Evans will considerably enhance Welsh mobility.

The new hooker, Nigel Meek, 28, fills a second front-row vacancy created by the dismissal of Garin Jenkins, who has had his 16-week suspension confirmed, in last month's Swansea-Llanelli game.

To have two debutants facing the formidable England front row, particularly as yesterday's news from Twickenham virtually ensured the return of Wade Dooley in the second row, is of unavoidable concern. 'There is no substitute for experience and clearly at tight head and hooker England have a wealth of it,' Alan Davies, the Wales coach, said. 'That will be difficult for us.' Difficult but, as the French showed, not impossible.

The rest of the pack is unchanged from the decent performance against the Wallabies two months ago, the bones of contention being at full-back, where Mike Rayer is prefered to Tony Clement, and more especially at outside-half, where Neil Jenkins's place-kicking was decisive in winning him the place ahead of Adrian Davies.

Instead, Davies will lead Wales B against the Netherlands on the same day, a game in which the former Olympic hurdler Nigel Walker wins his first national honours. Alan Davies said he had never considered throwing Walker, who recently returned to rugby after a 10- year absence, in against England.

Meanwhile, England, one faltering step towards their third consecutive Grand Slam, named a training squad of 22 for this weekend's session. The 15 players and six replacements from the French game are joined by Dooley, who was watching from the stand after withdrawing with a thigh injury.

The team will be announced on Sunday and, with a vacancy left at lock in the A team who play Italy at Bath next Wednesday, it can be assumed that the selectors want Martin Johnson to fill it and Dooley to prove his fitness for Preston on Saturday. Peter Rossborough, one of the A-team coaches, will manage England's North American tour in the summer, with Mike Slemen and Keith Richardson as coaches.

WALES (v England, Cardiff, 6 February): M Rayer (Cardiff); I Evans (Llanelli, capt), S Gibbs (Swansea), M Hall (Cardiff), W Proctor (Llanelli); N Jenkins (Pontypridd), R Jones (Swansea); R Evans (Llanelli), N Meek (Pontypool), H Williams-Jones (South Wales Police), Gareth Llewellyn (Neath), A Copsey, E Lewis (Llanelli), S Davies, R Webster (Swansea). Replacements: R Moon (Llanelli), A Clement (Swansea), A Lamerton (Llanelli), J Davies (Neath), A Reynolds (Swansea), P Kawulok (Cardiff).

WALES B (v Netherlands, 's-Hertogenbosch, 6 February): I Jones (Llanelli); S Ford (Cardiff), N Davies (Llanelli), R Bidgood (Newport), N Walker (Cardiff); A Davies (Cardiff, capt), R Howley (Bridgend); I Buckett (Swansea), R McBryde (Swansea), L Mustoe (Pontypool), P Arnold (Swansea), S Roy (Cardiff), H Stone (Cardiff), S Legge (South Wales Police), M Perego (Llanelli). Replacements: P John (Pontypridd), N Boobyer (Llanelli), A Thomas (Neath), R Shaw (Bridgend), A Williams (Maesteg), S Lloyd (Moseley).

ENGLAND A (v Italy, Bath, 3 February): A Buzza (Wasps); T Underwood (Leicester), D Hopley (Wasps), J Buckton (Saracens), H Thorneycroft (Northampton); P Challinor (Harlequins), R Hill (Bath); C Clark (Swansea), K Dunn (Wasps), A Mullins (Harlequins), A N Other, A Blackmore (Bristol), J Hall (Bath, capt), S Ojomoh (Bath), N Back (Leicester). Replacements: N Beal (Northampton), P Grayson (Waterloo), M Dawson (Northampton), M Hynes (Orrell), R Cockerill (Leicester), D Ryan (Wasps).

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