Wales get back to the future

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RUGBY LEAGUE : After the champagne finally stopped flowing, it was time to climb down from the ceiling for Wales yesterday.

"It was a great night for us," the Welsh coach, Clive Griffiths, said of his side's dramatic 18-16 victory over England. "But we have to get our feet back on the ground. We go to France in five weeks to try to win the European Championship, and that is going to be very tough.''

Griffiths believes that the spirit and staying power of his side in Cardiff proved that he was right to select a clutch of Anglo-Welshmen under the new grandparental qualification rule.

The unity of the team was tested when they were 16-8 down in the second half, he said, and the Welsh public have accepted the newcomers as their own.

The one disappointment at Ninian Park, on a night that was positively balmy compared with other ventures into Wales, was a crowd which barely topped 6,000.

There has been criticism of the advance promotion of the match, but the Rugby League's public affairs executive, Harry Gration, said that had been misguided. "We spent more money promoting this match than any other in Wales," he said. "Lack of promotion wasn't the reason for the attendance, but the result will certainly help in future."

Wales are to play World Cup matches against Western Samoa and France in South Wales this October, and this week's success will greatly increase the interest in those games.

One of the Welshmen missing from the line-up in Cardiff, John Devereux, has decided against attempting a comeback for Widnes this week.

Devereux was due to play in the A team last night, but pulled out after being told he is to be charged with theft of the contents of a charity box at the BBC's Sports Review of the Year in December. Devereux, who denies the charge, feared he would be unable to concentrate.

England's defeat has left Wigan with a catalogue of injury worries for Sunday's match against Castleford.

Jason Robinson has pulled a hamstring, while Gary Connolly missed the international with an achilles strain. Andy Farrell still has ankle ligament trouble and Denis Betts is in Sydney with the British squad in the World Sevens.

Wigan have been told, however, that they cannot play Martin Offiah, even if he recovers from his knee strain. Offiah is barred from playing for his club because he withdrew from the Sevens with the injury.

Castleford are likely to be without Richard Russell, who lasted only 21 minutes for England in Cardiff before suffering an ankle injury, as well as the suspended Dean Sampson and another Sevens absentee, Tony Smith.