Same again for Wales as Gatland sends out warning
Wednesday 19 November 2008
Seeing as they have been on the bloody end of so many maulings against them in the last half-century, no Wales player can feel entirely safe when the All Blacks are in town, but that has apparently applied doubly so in the last few twitchy days at the Vale of Glamorgan hotel. In selecting the same starting XV which ran South Africa so close 10 days ago, coach Warren Gatland yesterday all but admitted that he seriously considered dropping his captain, Ryan Jones.
"There were some positions we debated heavily – wing, nines and 10s and the loose-forwards," said Gatland before being asked specifically about Jones, the back-rower who has yet to hit his best form this season. " I've spoken to Ryan. In terms of the Canada game last week, we talked about two or three high-balls and just a little bit more accuracy. The message we are sending out is, 'it doesn't matter who you are, you've got to perform'. There is no guaranteed selection."
While Jones's demotion would have been unexpected, that of Shane Williams would have been unthinkable. After breaking his nation's try-scoring record in the Grand Slam season just gone, the wing is hot favourite to pick up the International Rugby Board's best player "gong" on Sunday. Yet Williams was behind the 19-year-old Leigh Halfpenny when it came to the pecking order for Saturday's encounter as Wales try to end a barren run against New Zealand stretching back to 1953.
"Given Leigh's performances in the first two games, he was the pick of the three wings," said Gatland. "It would have been pretty unfair to drop him." In the event, it was Mark Jones who was overlooked. Elsewhere, Gareth Cooper was preferred to Dwayne Peel at scrum-half and James Hook will be given until tomorrow to prove he has sufficiently recovered from a knee injury to take his place on the bench.
Wales: L Byrne (Ospreys); L Halfpenny (Blues), T Shanklin (Blues), J Roberts (Blues), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Scarlets), G Cooper (Gloucester); G Jenkins (Blues), M Rees (Scarlets), A Jones (Ospreys), A Wyn Jones (Ospreys), I Evans (Ospreys), R Jones (Ospreys, capt), M Williams (Blues), A Powell (Blues). Replacements: R Hibbard (Ospreys), J Yapp (Blues), L Charteris (Dragons), Dafydd Jones (Scarlets), D Peel (Sale), J Hook (Ospreys) or D Biggar (Ospreys), A Bishop (Ospreys).
Paul Scholes: Emirates was the easy option for Mesut Ozil. He needs a leader - and Arsenal don't have them
Police want right of veto over 'high risk' Friday night fixtures in wake of new Premier League TV deal
Gareth Bale reveals the two things he hates about Real Madrid: 'Getting nutmegged and Spanish spiders'
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao
Cristiano Ronaldo shows off his dance moves, including the moonwalk
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
- 3 World Book Day: Boy 'excluded' from school after dressing up as Fifty Shades' Christian Grey
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Elif Shafak: Turkish author warns against rise of British nationalism
Ex-head of MI6: 'We shouldn't kid ourselves that Russia is on a path to democracy'
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests