Ruddock motivates players to earn place for England

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The Independent Online

Wales may have lost to South Africa and New Zealand, albeit in closely fought matches, but as far as their fans are concerned it is clearly not the losing that matters, rather how they lose.

The Welsh brand of fiery, exhilarating rugby is pulling the crowds in. Tonight's match against Japan at The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff is expected to attract 50,000 spectators. But the Wales coach, Mike Ruddock, has told his players that they are not just playing for the home supporters.

"Each player selected is playing for their jersey and for a place in the starting line-up against England," Ruddock said. "The Six Nations' Championship is just around the corner, we need to go into our preparations for the first match against England with a good performance against Japan."

More ominously for Japan, who enter the match in the wake of a 25-10 defeat against Romania, Ruddock added: "We will be looking to improve upon our performances against South Africa, Romania and New Zealand, playing with the same high tempo, width and style which is fast becoming our trademark."

Ruddock has lost the services of three players, the fly-half Stephen Jones, full-back and captain Gareth Thomas and lock Gareth Llewellyn, who have all been recalled to their French clubs. Ceri Sweeney, Rhys Williams and Jonathan Thomas, are the respective replacements.

Colin Charvis regains the captaincy temporarily. Hal Luscombe returns to the right wing, with Tom Shanklin shunted to outside centre. Sonny Parker has been ruled out by a wrist injury. Gareth Cooper takes over from Dwayne Peel at scrum-half.

Japan make four changes from the team which lost to Romania. The flanker Feletliki Mau comes in for his first start of the tour, Wataru Ikeda replaces Kiyonori Tanaka at scrum-half and Hayato Daimon displaces Hiroki Mizuno on the wing. Yukio Motoki wins his 71st cap at centre in place of Seiichi Shimomura.

¿ Jason White returns at blindside flanker for Scotland as they attempt to beat South Africa at Murrayfield for the second time in a row tomorrow. Two years ago, the Scots scored a 21-6 victory for their first triumph over the Springboks since 1969.

¿ The Ireland flanker Jonny O'Connor has been given the all clear to take part in tomorrow's match with Argentina at Lansdowne Road.