Wales keep experience in reserve

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The Independent Online
Jonah Lomu, the biggest thing to come out of New Zealand since the America's Cup yacht Black Magic, was named yesterday in the All Blacks team to play Wales at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, tomorrow. This is one occasion where Wales could be fed to Jonah.

Whereas New Zealand have tinkered with their side, Wales have unexpectedly dismantled the team that looked so impressive in hammering Japan 57-10. In all they make 10 changes, four positional, and include three new caps: Jonathan Humphreys, the Cardiff hooker, Greg Prosser, the Pontypridd lock, and Mark Bennett, the Cardiff flanker.

The omission of experienced forwards Garin Jenkins and Mike Griffiths from the front row, and Emyr Lewis and Stuart Davies from the back row, raises the suspicion that Wales, who have been so upbeat about their prospects against the All Blacks, are keeping some of their finest powder dry for the crucial Group C match against Ireland next Sunday.

Only Adrian Davies, who has an ankle injury, was not available for selection. Neil Jenkins switches from centre to stand-off to partner Robert Jones and Gareth Thomas from wing to centre. There are six changes to the pack and Ricky Evans, who has had only a handful of games since breaking a leg against France in Paris in January, is back at prop. Mike Hall, who did not train yesterday because of bruised ribs, captains the side. "There was no question of saving Hall," Alex Evans, the coach, said. "We want to beat the All Blacks."

Lomu, who made such a huge impression in New Zealand's 43-19 victory over Ireland on Saturday night, scoring two tries and creating another, will again play on the left wing and will be opposed by Ieuan Evans. There have been more than 80 requests for interviews with Lomu from the media and they have all been rejected. Instead the NZ management issued a communique from the great man.

"I saw Ieuan Evans play with the Lions in New Zealand when I was at school," Lomu said. "He is a very experienced player with plenty of gas and I have respect for his ability at this level. I don't think too much about my last game. There is a lot of competition for my place and every time I go out there I'm looking to hold on to that Test jersey." There is nobody else in the squad who could fill such a large expanse of black cotton.

Jeff Wilson, who was injured on the right wing against Ireland, is replaced by Marc Ellis. Wilson, who hurt his neck and an ankle, wanted to be considered for the team. The only other change is in the back row where Zinzan Brooke plays No 8. Mike Brewer moves from the middle of the back row to blindside in place of Jamie Joseph. Brooke has been injured for most of the year and this is his first game for five weeks.

While Lomu wins only his fourth cap, Evans wins his 53rd. He holds the Welsh try record with 23, three ahead of Gerald Davies and Gareth Edwards, and 14 have been scored in the World Cup proper or its qualifying competition. When the Welsh were inevitably asked about Lomu, Geoff Evans, the manager, interjected. "I would like to point out," Evans said, "that Lomu has never played against a guy as skilful and as experienced as Ieuan. The onus is very much on Lomu."

The last time Wales beat New Zealand was in 1953 but Alex Evans, the Australian who coached Cardiff to the Heineken League title this season and who was hastily brought in by the WRU after a dismal Five Nations, has been playing the role here of psychologist as well as coach. "The Welsh haven't believed they could beat the All Blacks and that has been passed down through generations. This time we have an advantage. I have been part of the Australian camp that has consistently beaten the All Blacks and the Welsh squad is as good as any I've worked with."

WALES (probable v New Zealand, Johannesburg, tomorrow): A Clement (Swansea); I Evans (Llanelli), M Hall (Cardiff, capt), G Thomas (Bridgend), W Proctor (Llanelli); N Jenkins (Pontypridd), R Jones (Swansea); R Evans (Llanelli), J Humphreys (Cardiff), J Davies (Neath), G Prosser (Pontypridd), D Jones (Cardiff), G Llewellyn (Neath), H Taylor (Cardiff), M Bennett (Cardiff). Replacements: S Ford (Cardiff), D Evans (Treorchy), A Moore, E Lewis, M Griffiths (all Cardiff), G Jenkins (Swansea).

NEW ZEALAND: G Osborne (North Harbour); M Ellis (Otago), F Bunce, W Little (both North Harbour), J Lomu (Counties); A Mehrtens, G Bachop (both Canterbury); C Dowd, S Fitzpatrick (capt), O Brown (all Auckland), I Jones, B Larsen (both North Harbour), M Brewer (Canterbury), Z Brooke (Auckland), J Kronfeld (Otago. Replacements: E Rush (North Harbour), S Culhane (Southland), A Strachan (North Harbour), J Joseph (Otago), R Loe (Canterbury), N Hewitt (Hawke's Bay).

Referee: E Morrison (England).