RUGBY UNION: Wales sense a reprieve for Quinnell

SCOTT QUINNELL may yet sidestep the disciplinarians of Twickenham and join his Welsh countrymen in facing the World Champion Springboks at Wembley on Saturday, thanks to the unexpected intervention of an as yet un-named member of that most famous of rugby-playing broods. Quinnell's wife is due to give birth on Thursday evening and the Wales camp see that as good enough reason to postpone their No 8's appeal into a 14-day suspension that threatens to rule him out of the confrontation with South Africa.

Given that Quinnell is entitled to continue playing pending the appeal, the scenario suits Wales down to the ground. "Scott will not be attending any hearing on Thursday, which is the date we've been given, for obvious and wholly understandable reasons," insisted Graham Henry, the new national coach from Auckland. "It is both logical and sensible that the appeal be put back to a later date. I can't see that Twickenham has a choice in the matter because Scott is the key figure involved and he will be engaged on more important business elsewhere."

The important business Henry had in mind takes place on Saturday rather than Thursday; Quinnell's absence would be a sever body-blow to the Welsh cause for he is one of their few forwards capable of playing the Springboks at their own ultra-physical game. "We actually planned this manoeuvre nine months ago," grinned the acerbic New Zealander. And what if the birth takes place before Thursday? "It won't," said Henry with immense confidence.

Quinnell was dismissed by Brian Campsall, the international referee from Yorkshire, for what was adjudged to have been a late and dangerous tackle on Lawrence Dallaglio, the England captain, during a Premiership match between Wasps and Richmond at Loftus Road last month. He protested his innocence before a Rugby Football Union tribunal, citing his club's finding that the tackle was a mere 0.33 seconds outside the law, but was nevertheless banned for two weeks - a punishment that originally appeared to rule him out of the Wembley date.

Still, he will not have to put up with the Byzantine machinations of Twickenham for much longer. A move from Richmond to Llanelli, where he played before switching to rugby league in 1994, has been agreed and he is expected to re-acquaint himself with the scarlet jersey without much further ado.

Another Quinnell, younger brother Craig, has also been named for the Springbok Test, although he has no immediate plans to leave Richmond and follow his brother back across the Severn Bridge. "I just hope to god that Scotty gets the all-clear for Saturday," said the 19st second row after yesterday's training run in Cardiff. "He's a big bonus for us because he is so good at getting forward and giving the rest of the pack a target to hit. And anyway, he's family."

Quinnell junior will form a new engine-room partnership with Chris Wyatt, who has been in revelatory form for Llanelli of late, albeit in Quinnell senior's role of No 8. Henry, who should be quite an authority on quality tight forwards given his coaching links with the great Auckland sides of the recent past, believes his locks can bring a full range of powerful and athletic attributes to bare on the Springboks.

Shane Howarth, the former All Black full-back who now earns his living at Sale, has beaten the equally seasoned Mike Rayer to the No 15 shirt while Chris Anthony replaces the injured David Young at tight head, despite a season so far restricted to two full first-team appearances for Swansea.

"I've also played for my old junior club's second team and I stayed the course," Anthony pointed out in a not entirely successful attempt to reassure an audience of suspicious Welsh pundits.

Elsewhere, though, the selection has a safety first look to it. Henry resisted the temptation to throw Anthony Sullivan, the union rookie from rugby league country, in at the deepest of deep ends, preferring instead to pair Gareth Thomas and Dafydd James, formidable specimens both, on the wing. "Sullivan is a fantastic prospect for the future but this may not be the time to give him his third game in the union code," explained the coach.

WALES (v South Africa, Wembley, Saturday): S Howarth (Sale); G Thomas (Cardiff), M Taylor (Swansea), S Gibbs (Swansea), D James (Pontypridd); N Jenkins (Pontypridd), R Howley (Cardiff, capt); A Lewis (Cardiff), J Humphreys (Cardiff), C Anthony (Swansea), C Quinnell (Richmond), C Wyatt (Llanelli), C Charvis (Swansea), M Williams (Pontypridd), S Quinnell (Richmond). Replacements: M Rayer (Cardiff), N Boobyer (Llanelli), D Llewellyn (Ebbw Vale), M Voyle (Llanelli), B Evans (Swansea), D Morris (Swansea), B Williams (Richmond).

Dallaglio out, page 27

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