Wales revert to tried and tested

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The Independent Online
Wales will return to an orthodox pack formation when they face Ireland in Sunday's crucial Group C match in Johannesburg. The experiment of playing the lock Gareth Llewellyn in the back row will be abandoned against their old Five Nations' Championship foes as this clash of the Celts takes on a greater significance.

The winnerswill join the group's dominant force, New Zealand, in the quarter-finals. The losers return home and such is winner-takes-all nature of the match that it is little wonder Wales - beaten 34-9 by the All Blacks on Wednesday - are taking no chances. "I think you will see us reverting to a more conventional line-up against Ireland," Geoff Evans, the Wales manager, said.

Still, Evans took heart from Wales' performance. "We were certainly bigger than the New Zealand pack and I still contend we are as skilful as them," he said. "But we lacked their ability to play to a positive pattern and one of the things we must learn is to play a pressure game that brings results.

"Our best work was being done 80 yards from their line and it is next to impossible to create openings from that position."

The Cardiff stand-off, Adrian Davies, who missed that match, is expected to confirm his fitness in training today. If he comes through the session unscathed then he will reclaim the No 10 jersey and that will allow Neil Jenkins to revert to centre and Gareth Thomas to the wing. Llewellyn will take over from Greg Prosser in the second row, leaving the selectors to deliberate on the back row formation.

Wales were defeated by Ireland in this year's Five Nations campaign, earning the Welsh an unwelcome wooden spoon a mere 12 months after they had claimed the Championship. Another loss would mean they have failed to reach the knock-out stages of the World Cup for the second successive tournament. A further Five Nations challenge awaits Sunday's winners, with either France or Scotland their prospective opponents in the quarter-finals.

Ireland, meanwhile, touched down in Johannesburg yesterday to discover that Shane Byrne, the replacement for the injured hooker Keith Wood, had already arrived. The 23-year-old student had been watching Wednesday's match against Japan on television at home when he received a call from Pat Whelan, Ireland's assistant coach. Whelan called from a mobile telephone in the stands in Bloemfontein to tell Byrne to get his kit together and catch the first available plane.

The Irish squad had only a light work-out late yesterday afternoon but they are planning a full training session today in preparation for Sunday's match.

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