Here's the Best

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), June 6, 2007 | Go to article overview

Here's the Best


Byline: By Andy Howell Western Mail

Andy Howell throws his ideas into the mix as he goes for a team he says will do us proud at World Cup

WE'VE seen Gareth Jenkins' possibles team in action against Australia, but how many of them are in with a genuine chance of making Wales' first-choice line-up for September's World Cup?

So came the order from above, mindful I'd stuck my neck on the block by cheekily claiming the supposed second string selected for the trip Down Under had the capacity to beat the side that under-achieved during the Six Nations Championship.

I'd predicted in print, before coach Jenkins and his squad left for Australia, the possibles would come out on top if a modern-day trial against the probables was held.

There was a follow-up story to be written. Had my faith in certain individuals and my stance been validated by Wales' performances Down Under against the Wallabies?

Now's the time to judge just where Wales stand three months before the most important rugby union competition of all.

What chance Jenkins' men making a realistic bid for world glory and, more specifically, what would be my Wales team be for the September 9 kick-off against Canada if I was picking it today?

Would it be dominated by probables or possibles? Or would it be a case of mix and match?

Intriguing questions and sure to be widely debated throughout Wales as the countdown to the World Cup intensifies with each passing day.

They're not the only issues of course because there's the absolute necessity to improve the set-piece, the line-out in particular, receiving the ball at restarts and rucking and mauling quicker and more efficiently.

Unless those problem areas are ironed out, Wales won't have any chance of making an impact on France 2007, whatever team the increasingly under-pressure Jenkins puts on the pitch.

Assuming remedial work is successful, can the former Scarlets boss come up with a winning formula by choosing the best men for the job?

There are just three Tests, against England at Twickenham, Argentina and France, both at the Millennium Stadium, to get it right.

In the interests of giving Jenkins a helping hand as he wrestles with his self-confessed selection headache and of sparking a public debate, I'm naming my starting XV and seven replacements for the Nantes mission against the Canucks now.

And it is a case of mix and match with seven of his squad of possibles who were in the party for the Australian adventure making my World Cup team.

Gareth Thomas, Gavin Henson, James Hook, Iestyn Thomas, Matthew Rees, Colin Charvis and Michael Owen would all be in it.

So would Chris Horsman, although I didn't categorise him with the above because he was summoned to Sydney as a late replacement for the second Test.

Two others - utility forward Jonathan Thomas and scrum-half Mike Phillips - also make my 22 for the must-win clash with Canada.

Let me explain my selection, starting with the most controversial, my decision to leave out 2005 Grand Slam hero and official Six Nations player of that championship Martyn Williams.

People will point out Colin Charvis excelled at blindside flanker for Wales in the two Tests against Australia despite being part of a pack that failed to deliver enough possession because of major deficiencies at line-out and restart.

I know, but I remain convinced the veteran can still do a job as an openside flanker at Test level. It's a position in which he's out-played big hitters Richie McCaw and Schalk Burger in the past as Wales came so close to beating New Zealand and South Africa.

Playing Charvis at No 7 would actually increase his impact on games because he'd be arriving at the breakdown earlier and have more opportunity to use his renowned strength to snaffle possession and force turnovers.

Having Charvis and Williams in the same back row doesn't really fit in with Jenkins' philosophy. …

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