Wales unveil their latest Quinnell

Tim Glover meets a man with much to live up to on his international rugby union debut today
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Craig Quinnell is wearing a colourful tie emblazoned with the characters from the Flintstones. It was a Christmas present from his brother, Scott, the one who went to Wigan last year for a record sum. And what did Craig buy in return? "I can't remember," he said. "I think it was something for the house."

In the brave, reckless new world of union you might imagine that Craig, who will make his debut for Wales against Fiji at Cardiff Arms Park today at the tender age of 20, will be in a position to give up his day job. No chance. New Zealand internationals may be on pounds 100,000 contracts but, by comparison, their counterparts in Wales are still living in the Stone Age.

"I haven't signed a contract, I haven't seen a contract," Craig said. "I'm not sure I'll get anything for playing on Saturday. It doesn't bother me. It's the honour of winning a cap and playing for your country. There's not that much money about. Look at Wales in the World Cup. They were sponsored by a little garage in Swansea."

Honour, pride, a red cap in the top drawer, but for the new generation the bottom line has become money. "You can only play rugby for so long," Craig said. "I don't want to work until I'm 65. Money rules the world. If you haven't got it, you can't do anything, can you?"

The only way Craig can match Scott pound for pound is in weight rather than sterling. The Quinnell dynasty from Llanelli is large and still growing: father Derek, the former Llanelli and British Lions forward, is 6ft 4in and 18st; the 23-year-old Scott is 6ft 5in and 18 and a half stone and Craig 6ft 6in and 18 and a half stone.

Following his father and his brother into the Wales back row, it is tempting to regard Craig as the baby, albeit hippo species, of the family. But then there is little Gavin. He is 5ft 8in, 12 and a half stone and he is only 11 years old. "He's a lot bigger than I was at his age," Craig observed, almost enviously.

Perhaps wary of the nepotism charge, Derek Quinnell, a national selector, steadfastly refuses to be drawn into making any comparison between Scott and Craig. They both started with Llanelli Under-11s and played for Wales at school, youth and Under-21 level and about the only difference is that Craig took a short cut. He did not play for Wales A, which makes his promotion all the more dramatic.

"I was very surprised," he said. "I thought I was in the squad simply for the experience. I had no inkling I would be picked. All I want to do is keep my place. I'm not thinking long term." At the selection meeting Quinnell Snr did not have to declare an interest but Kevin Bowring, the Wales coach, said: "Derek didn't contribute a great deal to the discussion. Craig's there on merit. We needed a tall man, a line-out presence. We looked at ball-winning ability and he has that, too. Then we looked at his ability to carry the ball, break tackles and lay it off and he certainly has that. In fact, it's a Quinnell family feature."

So is working for the family firm. Scott was a sales rep with Chemtreat and Aquatreat, Derek's company in Llanelli, before moving north and Craig has followed in his footsteps. The benefits are living at home and a company car. What are the odds, in the next century, of Gavin Quinnell having the same lifestyle?

Last Friday Craig, on business in north Wales, drove to Leeds to watch big brother play for Wigan. Scott often repays the compliment and they see a lot of each other. "Craig is quite useful," Scott said. "He's coming along. It would be nice to play in the same side." It is unlikely to happen, at least in union, although if Craig shows some of the dynamism displayed by his brother at Cardiff Arms Park last year (Scott's memorable try against France persuaded Wigan to raid the bank) it is possible that he too could be made a league offer he could not refuse.

"He loves it," Craig said of Scott's conversion. "None of us were really surprised he went. We always enjoyed watching rugby league on television and my father liked it as much as anybody. He was really pleased for him." It is not often that a Wales selector can be "really pleased" at losing a man described as the most promising young forward in Britain to the enemy.

Whatever happens today, Craig has already helped to bring about a revolution in the approach of the Wales squad. When Wales beat Western Samoa in the league World Cup in Cardiff, Scott introduced Craig to a man called Ciaran Cosgrave. It seems that Cosgrave is to sport what Cracker is to crime.

Cosgrave, a 36-year-old Dubliner who used to play union for Lansdowne and Greystones, did some psychological work with the Wales league squad. "They were the best bunch I've ever worked with," he said. "Their attitude was unreal." Cosgrave got into the business when he sold high-risk insurance in California and some of his clients were American footballers. He graduated to working on the minds of the then LA Raiders. "They're big on attitude in American football," he said, "and in any pro sport it's 95 per cent attitude and 5 per cent skill."

Craig suggested to Ciaran that he should work with Llanelli. "I thought bugger Llanelli, I'll go for Wales," Cosgrave said. It explains why this week Craig Quinnell and the rest of Wales' elite squad could be seen performing the strangest rituals at the Wales Institute of Sport.

At one point Cosgrave had them holding hands in a circle, eyes closed, listening to the Welsh national anthem. When he did a similar thing with the league boys, he had them in tears. "I wanted them to visualise the scene in Cardiff at 4.30 on Saturday afternoon," Cosgrave said. "If you don't see a positive result, you're not going to get one."

Cosgrave is big on acronyms: TEAM (together everyone achieves more) or WIT (whatever it takes). Craig Quinnell is not sure what he will take from today's game. "He has a hell of a lot to live up to," Cosgrave said.

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