Refusnik Hayward turns the heat up on Henry

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The Independent Online

Byron Hayward, the Gloucester full-back who announced on Wednesday that he had pulled out of the Wales A match against Scotland A at Bridgend tonight because he felt so strongly about the eligibility crisis that has hit his homeland, further stoked the antipathy towards the Wales coach, Graham Henry, yesterday.

"I will probably never get the chance to play for Wales again," said Hayward, a former professional boxer who won the second of his two caps against South Africa in 1998, before losing his place to Shane Howarth, one of the two New Zealand players at the centre of the row over whether or not they have Welsh grandparents.

"I would have received £1,000 for playing for Wales A, but I am not prepared to play for any Wales team while Graham Henry is the coach. We are a joke in England. They are laughing at us," he added.

Hayward is the only player so far prepared to speak out against Henry. The New Zealander was regarded as a rugby messiah when he took over the national side, and was dubbed the Great Redeemer by some while Wales were stringing together a run of 10 victories.

Now the row over Howarth and the flanker Brett Sinkinson, who having claimed grand-parental ties to Wales are now unable to furnish the Welsh Rugby Union with any documentary evidence of those relatives, has added to a growing wave of anti-Henry sentiment

Hayward was not pulling any punches yesterday when he added: "Henry is desperate to make a mark because he can go home to New Zealand covered in glory."

The 30-year-old Hayward said he had sympathy for the likes of Swansea full-back Kevin Morgan and the Cardiff flanker Martyn Williams, who have been squeezed out by Howarth and Sinkinson. "The pair have deprived players like Martyn and Kevin, who is an outstanding young talent, of a lot of money. It is not right. I feel so angry about it. Henry should go over this."

Hayward also criticised the methods of the Welsh conditioning coach, Steve Black, whose services were snatched from under the noses of Newcastle United. Hayward said: "I question Steve Black's coaching methods. I do not think you can get fit on bikes and stepping machines. You do that by working your guts out."

There could be further problems in the fall-out from the eligibility furore that engulfed the Welsh national team last weekend. If Howarth and Sinkinson are overseas players then it means that their clubs, Newport and Neath, have been breaking European Cup and Welsh League regulations on the permitted number of overseas players, three and four respectively.

The WRU has promised the international a full report into the affair by early next week. The ramifications are legion, among which is the prospect of Wales being deducted the two Six Nations points they obtained for their solitary victory to date, over Italy.

There is also talk of lengthy bans for the players and some extreme measures such as banning Wales from next season's Six Nations have also been suggested, since it is the WRU's own inefficient system which has allowed the whole mess to blot the inaugural Six Nations tournament and mar the start of the new millennium for rugby union.