Welsh put their faith in Quinnell

Rugby Union
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The Independent Online
Kevin Bowring and his fellow Welsh selectors yesterday accepted one of the key principles of professional rugby - that the way to a good forward's heart is through his pocket - and recalled Scott Quinnell to the national side for tomorrow week's friendly with the United States at Cardiff Arms Park. Quinnell will play at No 8, with Steve Williams moving to blind- side flanker to cover for the injured Dale McIntosh.

In another change to the team beaten 37-20 by the world champions, South Africa, last month, Wales have chosen Gareth Thomas at left wing in place of Dafydd James. Thomas scored an exciting breakaway try against Australia four weeks ago, but missed the date with the Springboks after suffering mouth damage in a Bridgend club match.

There is no place for Jonathan Davies, who loses out to the bewilderingly gifted but dangerously erratic Arwel Thomas at outside-half, while Allan Bateman and Scott Gibbs, two more midfield players welcomed back into the union fold after spells in rugby league, hold their places in the centre. Bowring, the national coach, believes their partnership to be one of the most positive developments of the season.

Quinnell's return adds serious ballast to his current account as well as to the Welsh back-row. The 24-year-old Richmond player took umbrage at what he perceived to be blatant financial discrimination when the Welsh put home-based internationals on a pounds 30,000 retainer compared with the pounds 10,000 on offer to those earning a crust with English clubs. He duly declared himself unavailable for his country's pre-Christmas Test programme.

The dispute was solved by the intervention of Geoff Cartwright, a businessman from Gwent, who coughed up pounds 10,000 in sponsorship money. With Quinnell professing his determination to "help my country re-establish itself as a major international force", Bowring can look forward to developing a loose unit of real quality for the first time since taking over the reins 18 months ago.

Gwyn Jones, the Cardiff open-side flanker who made such an impact in last season's Five Nations' Championship, is close to reclaiming his Test place after shoulder trouble - he sits on the bench next week - and Williams' versatility opens up a number of options at blind side.

Talking of blind-side flankers, South Africa's World Cup-winning captain, Francois Pienaar, may need to exercise even more patience before making his debut for Saracens. Denied a run against Orrell last weekend by the weather, Pienaar's scheduled appearance against Bath on Saturday is also in the balance. Bath were experimenting with an industrial heater at the Recreation Ground yesterday but were doubtful that they would be able to improve the frozen surface in time to save the match.

Bath sources were also pessimistic about their chances of persuading Brian Ashton, their respected coach, to stay at the Rec. Frustrated at many aspects of the club's decision-making and dissatisfied with his own position in the chain of command, Ashton has been on extended leave since before Christmas. Tony Swift, the former international wing who chairs the club's management board, was expected to present new proposals to Ashton last night in an effort to stave off the coach's resignation.

WALES SQUAD (v USA Eagles, Cardiff Arms Park, January 11): N Jenkins (Pontypridd); I Evans (Llanelli), A Bateman (Richmond), S Gibbs (Swansea), G Thomas (Bridgend); A Thomas (Swansea), R Howley (Cardiff); C Loader (Swansea), J Humphreys (Cardiff, capt), D Young (Cardiff), G Llewellyn (Harlequins), M Rowley (Pontypridd), S Williams (Neath), C Charvis (Swansea), S Quinnell (Richmond). Replacements: J Thomas (Cardiff), P John (Pontypridd), G Jones (Cardiff), C Quinnell (Richmond), L Mustoe (Cardiff), G Jenkins (Swansea).

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