Wales attempt to ignore distractions

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Wales, the European champions, begin their World Cup campaign tonight with speculation over the future of some of the squad still rife.

Salford's Phil Ford is the latest target for rugby union and is reported to be set to quit league after the World Cup for a possible move to Cardiff, the club interested in Jonathan Davies.

Ford is not in Wales' side to face France in the Group Three opener at Ninian Park, Cardiff, but Clive Griffiths, the Welsh coach, is hoping that those playing have not been unsettled by all the speculation.

"I can't say I am happy about all the stories, but if I pick up a paper now and see a sensational headline, I just ignore it," he said. "You can't let it get to you and I won't let it get to the players. It won't be an excuse if we don't perform, but it certainly hasn't helped."

Griffiths' men are in the so-called group of death, in which they, France and Western Samoa would seem to be evenly matched. The group winners will almost certainly face a semi- final against England after their victory over champions Australia at Wembley on Saturday.

France have been given a double boost with their skipper Patrick Entat, the former Hull and Leeds scrum-half, and the loose forward Thierry Valero both being passed fit after injury.