Hansen drops 10 for Italy showdown

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Perhaps the only surprise with Steve Hansen's team announcement for tomorrow's Pool D "eliminator" with Italy in Canberra was that he chose to drop only 10 members of the Welsh side who performed so unspectacularly against Tonga.

There is a new half-back partnership in Ceri Sweeney and Dwayne Peel, both barely moist behind the ears, and a new front row that sees the vastly experienced Robin McBryde flanked by two vastly inexperienced props in Adam Jones and Duncan Jones. And it is not just their surnames that unite these two, nor indeed that they both hail from The Gnoll. Their mass of curly locks make them stand out like no other props and all Wales will be praying that this is not just another hare-brained scheme from Hansen.

"Duncan gives us another ball-carrying option with his mobility around the field, while his scrummaging against Canada was exceptional," the Wales coach said. "Adam was picked for the specific game plan that we have." Sweeney is also part this "specific game plan" that is presumably the complete opposite of the "unspecific" one that backfired so rudely last Sunday.

Sweeney is preferred to Stephen Jones because "he combines well with Iestyn Harris and kicks well". The 23-year-old will need to do both if he is to link effectively with the 22-year-old Peel inside him and allow Harris, Wales' one glittering light, to release a back line that welcomes back Gareth Thomas on the wing, Sonny Parker at outside centre and Kevin Morgan at full-back.

In the pack, Hansen has opted for the muscle of the adopted Australian Brent Cockbain to partner Gareth Llewellyn at lock.

After the scandalous four-day recovery period allotted to them by the ever-fair International Rugby Board, Italy have their captain, Alessandro Troncon, and the centre Andrea Masi fit again. John Kirwan shows the depth he now has by consigning the huge talent of Mauro Bergamasco to the bench along with his one-time pack leader Matthew Phillips. Wales have no such luxuries.

WALES (v Italy, Canberra, tomorrow): K Morgan; M Jones, S Parker, I Harris, G Thomas; C Sweeney, D Peel; D Jones, R McBryde, A Jones, B Cockbain, G Llewellyn, D Jones, M Williams, C Charvis (capt). Replacements: M Davies, G Jenkins, R Sidoli, J Thomas, G Cooper, S Jones, R Williams.

Comments