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    Your Sunday Papers Sir......(& Madam ?)..

    Please feel free to contribute................

    #2

    <h1> Ireland to make Jenkins' men learn the hard way </h1>
    @@@@SPAN>By Paul Ackford , Sunday Telegraph@@@@/SPAN>
    <div style="float: left;">@@@@SPAN>Last Updated: @@@@SPAN style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">11:57pm GMT@@@@/SPAN>03/02/2007@@@@/SPAN></div>


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    <t></t><table summary="" align="center" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="2" width="100%"><t><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td colspan="1">Six Nations on Telegraph TV </td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td colspan="1"> | Sunday's team details</td></tr></t></table>

    Expectations are high in Wales this season.

    ''The
    players are setting their sights on winning in the quarter-finals of
    the Rugby World Cup for the first time since 1987 and then going for
    broke in the semi-final,'' says Welsh coach Gareth Jenkins. The same
    Gareth Jenkins, let me remind you, who is facing his first Six Nations
    in charge with a record of just two victories -against Canada and the
    Pacific Islanders - in the six matches since he took over from Scott
    Johnson last April. You can't fault the man's optimism.<t></t><table align="right" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="207"><t><tr><td rowspan="2" width="8"></td><td width="199"><center></center></td></tr><tr><td><center>High hopes: Gareth Jenkins' Wales have won just twice since last April</center></td></tr></t></table>

    Jenkins
    wants Wales to play the 'Welsh way'. ''Good possession from the scrum
    and lineout enables you to build a game and play at the kind of tempo
    at which Welsh teams thrive. Our players like to keep the ball moving
    and keep the game alive - that's the Welsh way.''

    There's
    more: ''We are consistently up with, or better than, the best teams in
    the world with the number of line breaks we achieve in matches,
    although our efficiency and effectiveness in converting them into
    points is below the best. That is another one of our major challenges
    this year - converting chances into tries.''

    Now, I
    have got a lot of time for Jenkins. He is one of the most articulate
    and knowledgeable coaches in world rugby, passionate and engaging at
    all times, but please, the Welsh way? It's simply an acknowledgment of
    what Wales are not very good at. If Wales had a reliable lineout, a
    formidable scrum and some damaging ball carriers amongst their front
    five, the Welsh way would be the English way around the turn of the
    century. Win the ball, keep it, dominate territory, ratchet up the
    defence, minimise mistakes, bang over the penalties and wait for the
    opposition to subside slowly.

    You don't hear Eddie
    O'sullivan, Ireland's coach, talking of the Irish way. He has kicked
    around long enough to know that a win's, a win's, a win, and it doesn't
    matter how they arrive, even though the Irish scrummage is as iffy as
    Wales's; even though

    Comment


      #3
      <h1> Strap in and enjoy the ride </h1>
      @@@@SPAN ="storyby">By Brendan Gallagher@@@@/SPAN>
      <div style="float: left;">@@@@SPAN ="d">Last Updated: @@@@SPAN style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">8:14am GMT@@@@/SPAN>03/02/2007@@@@/SPAN></div>
      Comment on this story
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      <table summary="" align="center" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="2" width="100%"><t><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1">Blog: Skullduggery in the bushes | Bet like men </td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1">Six Nations on Telegraph TV | Full weekend team details</td></tr></t></table>After
      probably the longest week of talking, debating and speculation in Six
      Nations history — no bad thing, mind, for rugby fanatics who enjoy
      endlessly chewing the cud — it was Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan, as
      it often is, who summed it up best.<table align="right" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" ="0" width="207"><t><tr><td rowspan="2" width="8"></td><td width="199"><center></center></td></tr><tr><td ="capti&#111;n"><center>Luck of the Irish: Eddie O'Sullivan with the Triple Crown trophy</center></td></tr></t></table>"People
      keep telling me Ireland are favourites. Well that's grand, but I don't
      see anybody sticking their hands in their pockets. Do you? Being
      labelled favourites can often bite you in the a***. Not a lot has to go
      wrong to lose a Championship and a small bit of luck can reap massive
      rewards. Let's all just strap in and enjoy the ride."But
      by tomorrow night we will know much more. If Ireland do sneak a win at
      Cardiff they are well capable of moving on to another level which
      nobody in Europe can currently match, although it would be a level
      France and England should always aspire to. If Ireland beat Wales
      tomorrow, expect them to build confidently and win the Championship.
      But should they lose...Ireland, more than any
      nation, need to spring smartly from the traps this weekend. They must
      hit this tournament running. Not only are Wales fearsome opponents in
      Cardiff but, historically, Ireland are prone to let the first 15
      minutes of a game take its own course rather than dictate events
      themselves.O'Sullivan and Brian O'Driscoll talk
      about it constantly at training, but occasionally Ireland still revert
      to type and this is a match they could easily lose if they go AWOL in
      the opening exchanges.<div ="mpuad"><div ="adtxt">advertisement</div>< src="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/core/NetGravity/mpu.js" =""></div>There
      is also the issue of quickly regaining momentum from a superb autumn
      and banishing some of the niggling

      Comment


        #4
        <h1>Telegraph.co.uk: Six Nations team details</h1>
        <div style="float: left;">@@@@SPAN ="d">Last Updated: @@@@SPAN style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">2:34pm GMT@@@@/SPAN>02/02/2007@@@@/SPAN></div>
        <!-NO VIEW-><table summary="" align="center" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="2" width="100%"><t><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center"><table align="center" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" ="0" width="70"><t><tr><td width="70"><center></center></td></tr></t></table>
        @@@@SPAN ="subh1">WALES@@@@/SPAN></td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">v</td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center"><table align="center" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" ="0" width="70"><t><tr><td width="70"><center></center></td></tr></t></table>
        @@@@SPAN ="subh1">IRELAND@@@@/SPAN></td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="3" align="center">Millennium Stadium, Sunday Feb 4, 15.00
        Referee: K Deaker (New Zealand)
        Touch judges: S Walsh (New Zealand) and D Changleng (Scotland)
        </td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">K Morgan
        (Newport Gwent) </td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">15</td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">G Dempsey
        (Leinster) </td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">H Luscombe
        (Harlequins) </td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">14</td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">A Trimble
        (Ulster) </td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center"> J Robinson
        (Cardiff) </td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">13</td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">B O'Driscoll
        (Leinster, capt) </td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">J Hook
        (Ospreys) </td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">12</td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">G D'Arcy
        (Leinster) </td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">C Czekaj
        (Cardiff Blues) </td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">11</td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">D Hickie
        (Leinster) </td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">S Jones
        (Llanelli Scarlets, capt) </td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">10</td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">R O'Gara
        (Munster) </td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">D Peel
        (Llanelli Scarlets) </td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">9</td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">P Stringer
        (Munster) </td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">G Jenkins
        (Cardiff Blues) </td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">1</td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">M Horan
        (Munster)</td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">R Thomas
        (Cardiff Blues) </td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">2</td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">R Best
        (Ulster) </td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">C Horsman
        (Worcester) </td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">3</td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">J Hayes
        (Munster) </td></tr><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center"> I Gough
        (Newport Gwent Dragons) </td><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1" align="center">4</td><td ="mediumtxt" co

        Comment


          #5
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          <div id="breadcrumbs">PRINT STORY - @@@@SPAN id="linkback">FULL VERSION @@@@/SPAN>
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          @@@@SPAN id="news_c&#111;ntent"><h2>O'Sullivan: Don't go soft on Wales</h2>@@@@SPAN ="storytime">03/02/2007@@@@/SPAN>

          @@@@SPAN ="story">Ireland
          coach Eddie O'Sullivan has warned his pack they must survive Wales'
          softening-up process if they are to make a successful start to the RBS
          6 Nations.

          The scrum is viewed as Ireland's Achilles heel with
          Wales coach Gareth Jenkins admitting the Triple Crown holders' front
          row will be targeted at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday.

          Destructive
          props Chris Horsman and Gethin Jenkins are expected to trouble John
          Hayes and Marcus Horan while the selection of Alix Popham and Ryan
          Jones in the back row adds beef.

          O'Sullivan believes Wales will
          only look to play their famed running game once their forward assault
          has broken Ireland up-front.

          "Wales know they are good at moving the ball so that's what they will try to do," he said.

          "That's been their trademark for the last few years and they have been very successful at it.

          "But if you look at their selection then it's evident they believe they will have to soften up our pack first.

          "There's no secret what their plan will be tomorrow – to stamp their authority on the match with their pack.

          "Once they feel they have softened us up enough they will look to move the ball away.

          "The battle lines have been drawn between the two packs but if Wales get the ball they will run with it."

          Hayes'
          and Horan's problems in the scrum during Munster's Heineken Cup defeat
          by Leicester last month has only served to underline Ireland's greatest
          shortcoming.

          Wales are expected to gain an advantage in the
          front row and O'Sullivan admits scrummaging has been a key area in
          training this week.

          "We always scrum live on the week of a Test game – that's why we have more people in camp," he said.

          "We haven't put a huge amount of effort into it, we've just been more selective about what we're doing.

          "There's an opinion that scrummaging his just a lot grunt and hard work.

          "There's an element of that but if you do that there's a danger you'll leave your best energy on the training pitch.

          "But we have paid a fair bit of attention to scrummaging."

          What
          Ireland lack in the scrum they make up for in other areas, namely the
          midfield where Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy are the most
          formidable centre partnership in Test rugby.

          But in James Hook,
          21, they face a rising star who has enjoyed a sensational start to his
          international career and O'Sullivan is a keen admirer of the Ospreys
          back.

          "The exciting thing about Hook is that he's hit the ground running since winning his first cap," he said.

          "He
          seems to tick all the boxes as a rugby player. The most important box
          is his temperament because he's shown extraordinary composure since
          he's come on the scene.

          "He's a player who has become an important cog in the Wales machine very quickly."

          Wales
          talisman Gareth Thomas is unavailable after landing a four-week ban for
          attempting to jump into the crowd during Toulouse's Heineken Cup clash
          with Ulster last month.

          O'Driscoll knows Thomas from their time
          together on the 2005 Lions tour to New Zealand and insists his absence
          will leave a big hole in the Welsh team.

          "Gareth is a major loss because he's been an instrumental for them for a number of years," said the Ireland skipper.

          "I
          know Denis Hickie will be disappointed Gareth is not available because
          he wanted

          Comment


            #6


            Originally posted by Fly_caster
            Please feel free to contribute................

            You're on your own tonight mate! [img]smileys/wink.gif[/img] I'll see what I can muster up tomorrow.
            New infraction avoidance policy: a post may be described as imbecilic, but its author should never be described as an imbecile.

            Comment


              #7
              @@@@SPAN id="news_c&#111;ntent"><h2>Hook sights Slam as he lines out with heroes</h2>@@@@SPAN ="storytime">03/02/2007@@@@/SPAN>

              @@@@SPAN ="story">TWO
              years ago James Hook watched Wales clinch the Grand Slam from a pub on
              St Mary's Street after failing to get a ticket for the Millennium
              Stadium.

              Hook, who at the time was still a semi-professional
              with Neath, celebrated that triumph over Ireland with the 300,000 other
              supporters who had flooded into Cardiff.

              It was a victory which
              inspired the greatest party Welsh rugby could remember for 27 years —
              and no shortage of hangovers — but for Hook it confirmed what he wanted
              from his life in rugby.

              When Ireland return to Cardiff for
              tomorrow's RBS 6 Nations opener, Hook will not be in The Yard, the
              Philharmonic or the Prince of Wales.

              He will be running out at
              the Millennium Stadium alongside six of those Grand Slam heroes as a
              key figure at the heart of Wales's back division.

              "When Wales
              won the Grand Slam in 2005, I was actually in one of those pubs across
              the road from the stadium," the 21-year-old recalled.

              "Like everyone else, I couldn't get a ticket but it was still great to see Wales winning the Grand Slam.

              "It
              is surreal the way things have changed so quickly for me. Watching the
              match that day just inspired me to become part of the Six Nations and I
              am thrilled to bits now.

              "I had started playing junior rugby
              at the age of five so I had always been rugby mad. But when you see
              something like that and Wales winning the Grand Slam, it just spurs you
              on that little bit more."

              Hook graduated through the Wales
              Sevens side, appeared at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and helped
              the Under-21s to the Grand Slam last season.

              He made his Test
              debut for Wales on the 2006 summer tour to Argentina before he had even
              played for the Ospreys and then produced a stunning performance against
              Australia in November.

              Comparisons with Wales legend Barry
              John and modern day New Zealand great Dan Carter soon followed.
              Everyone was getting carried away with Wales's latest discovery —
              everyone, that is, except Hook.

              "It is quite surreal what has
              happened to me this season but I can't let it faze me, I just have to
              keep concentrating on my game," said Hook.

              "Everything just
              seemed to go right for me in that game against Australia but not every
              game is going to be like that. I have to learn from my experiences."

              Hook
              will reform his summer centre partnership with Jamie Robinson on Sunday
              after Tom Shanklin was injured and Hal Luscombe switched on to the wing
              after Gareth Thomas was suspended.

              With Shanklin, Thomas,
              Shane Williams and Mark Jones all absent, Hook will have to shoulder
              greater responsibility than ever before, particularly as he is facing
              two of the world's best centres.

              "It will be a step up for me.
              The Six Nations is always very intense, especially when you are up
              against centres like Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll. It is going to
              be competitive and I can't wait," he said.

              "Those two are
              world class and because they play club and country together it gives
              them an extra bond which is priceless. But they have weaknesses in
              their game like everyone else and we will try to exploit those."

              Long
              before Hook was old enough to be allowed into Cardiff's city centre
              pubs, his father would take him to the old Arms Park to watch Wales
              play.

              "I do remember a lot about the old Five Nations, particularly the match in

              1993
              when Ieuan Evans scored a try and Wales beat England 10-9 in Cardiff. I
              went to that game and little bits of it stick in my mind.

              "This
              is always such an exciting time because the Welsh public really get up
              for the Six Nations. It's great for me to be involved in it now."@@@@/SPAN>@@@@/SPAN>

              Comment


                #8
                <div ="storyer">
                <h1>Jones eyes Irish scalp to launch title bid </h1>
                @@@@SPAN ="storyDate">Saturday, 3 February 2007 15:30@@@@/SPAN>
                </div>
                <div ="story">
                <rte:></rte:>

                Ryan
                Jones believes Wales can launch another memorable RBSSix Nations title
                challenge with victory over pre-tournament favourites Ireland.


                Two years ago, a narrow opening win over England at the Millennium
                Stadium famously sparked a first Welsh Grand Slam campaign in 27 long
                years and Jones is convinced Sunday's clash with the Irish holds the
                same promise for a Welsh side hit by injuries but with ambition in
                spades.


                Jones said: 'To have this game first up is great. If we can win,
                then the championship is wide open and there is no reason why we can't
                go on to bigger and better things. It is like the England game two
                years ago. The players see it as the big game of the tournament.<div id="story_island"> </div>


                'I haven't been this excited about a rugby match for ages. I think
                it will be a great game and the most exciting thing is that there is no
                reason why we can't win. The results from last year did not go our way,
                but we have had a whole load of talent come through. We have the belief
                and a home crowd behind us.'


                Ireland head into the fixture in the same state of mind but with the
                added pressure of being considered title favourites. Captain Brian
                O'Driscoll admitted that, with France and England up next, Ireland's
                title challenge could go 'horribly wrong' with a defeat at the
                Millennium Stadium.



                And the Osprey's number eight is ready to cause them some real misery.


                Jones said: 'Ireland go into the game and the campaign as
                favourites, but with that comes a certain added pressure and it is all
                about how they deal with it. We want to impose ourselves on Ireland and
                if we do that I really think we can do well.


                'Alix (Popham) and I have been picked to pose a certain threat to
                Ireland. Alix is playing particularly well at the moment so hopefully
                that will help me perform like I have been for the last few months. The
                breakdown is going to be hugely competitive and we have to make sure we
                get the go-forward and good ball.


                'The Welsh regions have done well up front in the Heineken Cup and
                if we can bring that to the international stage and dominate other
                packs then I think we can do well.'


                Sunday will be Jones' first Six Nations appearance since Wales
                clinched that Grand Slam against the Irish in March 2005. After
                starring as a late replacement on the Lions tour he underwent a
                shoulder reconstruction that cost him all of last season. It has taken
                until the last couple of months for Jones to rediscover some of his
                best form.


                He said: 'I do feel I have something to prove. I came into the
                autumn lacking the form I would have liked and probably the belief in
                my own ability at the time. Since then, things have come together and I
                have been able to get back to somewhere near where I want to be.


                'I am more experienced than I was in 2005. Going into the arena
                holds no fears anymore. I do get nervous. There is a different pressure
                now. In 2005 I was winging it - now expectation is higher and you tend
                to get unwanted attention from some scary French props!'

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                  #9
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                  »Print...

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                  <hr noshade="noshade">



                  <h3>Stringer calls for an early response</h3>
                  <h5>Saturday 3rd February 2007</h5>


                  Ireland
                  scrum-half Peter Stringer insists Ireland must meet Wales' early
                  onslaught head-on if they are to make a successful start to their Six
                  Nations campaign.






                  Ireland's title hopes remained alive when they last visited the Millennium Stadium on the final day of the 2005 championship.





                  But they wilted before Wales' blistering opening and never
                  recovered in a defeat far more convincing than the 32-20 scoreline
                  suggests.





                  The Welsh completed the Grand Slam and Stringer admits the painful memories of that day will drive his side on.





                  "We were perhaps caught off guard in 2005. We have got to start the game a lot faster," he said.





                  "The pressure they put on us in that game and the occasion meant they were physically up for it.





                  "We have to match that, flip it over in the first 10-15 minutes
                  and set out a stall and show them we will not be bullied. We have to
                  get stuck into them.





                  "What happened two years ago is in the back of the guys' minds.
                  I remember being very disappointed watching Wales lift the trophy two
                  years ago.





                  "We have a massive challenge trying to contain Wales. It's
                  always a high-scoring game and we will have to nail them down in the
                  first 20 minutes and get a structure on the game."





                  Stringer has experienced mixed fortunes at the Millennium
                  Stadium with the disappointment of Ireland's defeat in 2005 tempered by
                  his match-winning exploits in last season's Heineken Cup final.





                  A magical solo try helped Munster to a 23-19 victory over Biarritz and also landed Stringer the man-of-the-match award.





                  But the 29-year-old insists his Heineken Cup heroics will be far
                  from his mind on Sunday with Welsh passion in their Cardiff stronghold
                  delivering a sobering reality check.





                  "We had all our supporters in Cardiff for the Heineken Cup final
                  and they will be outnumbered this time. The crowd will still all be
                  dressed in red - but not for us," he said.





                  "It's the same place but a completely different occasion,
                  different players and a new competition so any memories of last year
                  will fade away quickly.





                  "Wales are a very good side, especially in the Millennium Stadium, which is one of the best grounds I've played in.





                  "When you play against Wales, with the atmosphere and singing, you really get a buzz.





                  "You listen to the Welsh anthem and it sends shivers down the back of your neck.





                  "You are playing in front of passionate supporters, Irish and Welsh, and it doesn't get any better than that."

                  Comment


                    #10
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                    <h3>Preview - Wales v Ireland</h3>
                    <h5>Friday 2nd February 2007</h5>


                    History
                    would lead us to believe Sunday's game will only have one winner,
                    Ireland. To say it has been something of a green dominance in the last
                    seven meetings between these two Celtic giants would be an
                    understatement. Ireland have won all but one of the encounters.






                    However when you have youth on your side there doesn't tend to
                    be too much time for history, after all it is what happens now that
                    counts. So for a Welsh side boasting three of the games brightest
                    stars, James Hook, Alun Wyn Jones, and Chris Czekaj, there will be
                    little concern as to what has gone before.





                    They, along with the rest of the Welsh team, will, however,
                    remember that the last Welsh victory to come over Ireland was the Grand
                    Slam clinching victory of 2005. That day and the way Wales played will
                    serve as a reminder to the current side of how they need to play now to
                    live with Ireland.





                    Ireland will arrive in Cardiff on the crest of a wave, having
                    enjoyed crushing victories over South Africa and Australia in the
                    November series. In fact, such was the quality of their play in those
                    games and the settled look to their side, that they have earned the tag
                    of favourites heading into the Six Nations.





                    The favourites tag, while well deserved, seems to have done
                    little to detract what is required of Ireland in captain Brian
                    O'Driscoll's eyes.





                    "Yes, we are favourites for the Six Nations but we won't be
                    changing anything because of it. Perhaps we'll now be given more
                    respect from teams. We've got to play with that confidence and element
                    of arrogance that is expected of you when you have put in some good
                    performances,"said the Irish captain.





                    Wales too can take confidence from their November form, despite
                    a convincing defeat at the hands of New Zealand, although they were not
                    alone in failing to match a rampant All Black side. A draw against
                    Australia, having looked out of the game at one stage will have given
                    them heart, none more so than James Hook who sparked that revival.





                    Hook has been in such a rich vein of form that he has forced is
                    way into the starting side at inside centre, a position he is equally
                    as comfortable with as his customary fly-half role. The added kicking
                    option he brings to the midfield will be a valuable asset to Wales.





                    The loss of Gareth Thomas to a four week ban means Jamie
                    Robinson comes into the side to partner Hook in midfield forcing Hal
                    Luscombe, originally selected at thirteen, onto the week. Luscombe too
                    is more than at home on the wing, having won his first international
                    cap in that role.





                    In a bid to counter the powerful Irish scrum Gareth Jenkins has
                    selected a more muscular Welsh pack, with Chris Horsman coming in on
                    the tight head and Ian Gough packing down behind him in the second row.
                    The back row has a powerful look to it with Ryan Jones and Alix Popham
                    teaming up with Cardiff Blues' Martyn Williams.





                    The Ireland side contains the bulk of those players who were so
                    influential in their November success, and has a strong Munster
                    flavour, most notably in the forwards. Munster provide the back bone to
                    the side, with Pete

                    Comment


                      #11






                      @@@@SPAN> 03 February 2007 @@@@/SPAN>


                      @@@@SPAN>When the talking stops…@@@@/SPAN>


                      @@@@SPAN>By Charlie Mulqueen, Cardiff@@@@/SPAN>

                      @@@@SPAN>WELSH
                      coach Gareth Jenkins has got it wrong! His frank admission that he has
                      picked a team to target ‘a vulnerable Irish scrum’ in tomorrow’s RBS
                      Six Nations game at the Millennium Stadium is laudable in its honesty
                      but is set to backfire badly. @@@@/SPAN>



                      @@@@SPAN>
                      In
                      omitting the long-haired ones — Adam and Duncan Jones of the Ospreys —
                      and opting for Chris Horsman of Worcester and Gethin Jenkins of Cardiff
                      Blues, Jenkins has set out his stall. He clearly believes that just as
                      Leicester recently hammered the Munster scrum in the Heineken Cup, so
                      too can his readjusted pack against an Irish eight containing six of
                      the players found wanting against the Tigers.
                      Having coached Llanelli Scarlets in many Celtic League
                      matches against Munster, he feels he knows the score better than most.
                      He talks about Ireland’s “particular type of front-row” and admits that
                      “ours is a tactical selection which I hope can challenge them in that
                      area.”

                      Certainly, the Shannon pair of Marcus Horan and John
                      Hayes have been forewarned and carry a big responsibility in a game
                      that will define whether all the pre-Christmas hype generated by the
                      three wins in the autumn season were actually justified.

                      But it
                      is also fair for the rest of the pack to take note of Donncha
                      O’Callaghan’s words in the wake of the Leicester debacle. He observed:
                      “the scrum is about one to eight. It’s not only about the three in the
                      front-row”.

                      It’s a point coach Eddie O’Sullivan has been
                      drilling home over the past couple of weeks and you have the feeling
                      that Jenkins and his players could be in for a shock.

                      Furthermore,
                      whereas Leicester fielded a world-class scrummaging trio in Julian
                      White, George Chuter and Martin Castrogiovanni, with Marcos Ayerza
                      waiting in the wings, Wales have nothing of this quality at their
                      disposal. In fact, I don’t visualise any member of the Irish pack
                      losing sleep at the prospect of taking on Horsman, Rhys Thomas and
                      Gethin Jenkins.

                      On top of that, the Welsh may also have
                      forfeited much of the speed and fire brought by the two Jones boys in
                      preference for power at the set piece. Horsman plies his trade at the
                      bottom of the English Premiership with Worcester and Jenkins is part of
                      a Cardiff pack that hasn’t been setting the world alight.

                      As
                      against that, there is no better line-out lifter in the game than John
                      Hayes while the defensive attributes of the 19 stone, 6 ft 4 inch giant
                      around the fringes, coupled with his ball-carrying in the open are
                      without peer.

                      Marcus Horan is one of the best all-round props
                      in the world, as evidenced by his superb try for Munster against
                      Bourgoin and the little dink in the Leicester match that would have
                      been the envy of the Ronan O’Garas of this world.

                      Gareth
                      Jenkins was candid enough to admit that Ireland will attack their
                      line-out, and it’s an area where the Welsh may well be vulnerable. You
                      expect Paul O’Connell and Donncha O’Callaghan to make life tough for
                      Ian Gough and Alun Wyn-Jones, while Simon Easterby will have justified
                      his selection ahead of the unlucky Neil Best if he copes with the
                      challenge of Ryan Jones at the back. Nor do I believe that Denis Leamy,
                      a greater force with every big game he plays, and David Wallace will
                      give an inch against Alix Popham and Martyn Williams.

                      Ireland
                      should at least hold their own up front, leaving the talented back
                      division to complete the operation. True, th

                      Comment


                        #12

                        Ireland perfectly equipped to survive early blitz</font>
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                        Eddie O'Sullivan faces one of the biggest games of his tenure and will be anxious to build momentum
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                        Saturday February 3rd 2007</font>




                        CONSIDER how far Ireland have come under Eddie O'Sullivan, then factor
                        in where he wants this squad to go in World Cup year and I think it is
                        fair to suggest tomorrow's run out in Cardiff is the biggest single
                        game of the O'Sullivan era.


                        Win, and it opens up all sorts of possibilities not least in terms
                        of the Six Nations Championship and, perhaps, the Grand Slam. Lose, and
                        it will be a massive setback stilting momentum and progress in the
                        climb towards the ultimate challenge in France in the Autumn.


                        The World Cup will not have been mentioned in the Irish camp to date
                        nor will it be until after the Six Nations and end of season tour to
                        Argentina is complete. However, O'Sullivan is acutely aware that
                        victory alone in the Millennium will provide the essential momentum
                        leading to a Championship and Grand Slam assault, the unwritten
                        springboard, towards a meaningful World Cup.


                        Teams are at their most vulnerable when on foreign soil in the
                        opening encounter in any tournament, and nobody should fall into the
                        trap of looking beyond this Wales team, despite their problems in the
                        build up.


                        And much though we wish it were "just another field", the Millennium
                        is different particularly when stuffed with over 70,000 passionate
                        Welsh fans. Certainly for Paul O'Connell and the Munster contingent it
                        will be a dramatically different experience to their last run out at
                        the venue back in May.


                        Ireland may have won twice in their last three visits to Cardiff,
                        but regardless of preparation, the first game is always something of an
                        unknown quantity which is why coaches will always emphasise the
                        importance of momentum.


                        Turn the clock back a couple of years to 2005 - bear in mind we had
                        pretty high, though less well-founded, pre-tournament aspirations then
                        too - when one mighty swing of Gavin Henson's boot represented the
                        difference between the Welsh Grand Slam of that year taking root, and
                        it being ended inside 80 minutes by England in Cardiff.


                        With just seven days separating our two opening matches, victory in
                        Wales will leave the players relishing a return to their Killiney base
                        camp and training in Bray. Like their coach, however, there is a desire
                        for this campaign to finally fulfil a long-standing mission.


                        Embracing


                        Ireland have not won the Championship since 1985 (when it was the 5
                        Nations) but are the only team not to figure outside the top three
                        since Italy arrived on the scene. Three times, embracing two Triple
                        Crowns, we have finished runner-up in the last four years and already
                        this Irish squad's level of consistency stands alone.


                        Yet there remains still a feeling of task unfulfilled. This is the
                        most talented group ever to wear the green but the heat is on to
                        deliver a Northern Hemisphere title ideally garnished by way of a clean
                        sweep.


                        Since the game went professional, we have beaten the Welsh nine
                        times out of 12, including six of the last seven. All those victories
                        have been convincing apart from 2003 when O'Gara's amazing drop goal at
                        the death earned a 25-24 victory at the Millennium. Aside from New
                        Zealand, we have bea

                        Comment


                          #13
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                          <t><tr><td align="left" valign="top">@@@@SPAN ="date">The Sunday Times@@@@/SPAN></td>

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                          <h1>Wales short of star quality</h1>

                          @@@@SPAN ="byline">Stephen Jones@@@@/SPAN>

                          <h3>Without the dazzling talents of Gavin Henson, the side that meets Ireland in Cardiff today looks worryingly pedestrian</h3> </td>
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                          Gareth
                          Jenkins, the Wales coach, rounded on his inquisitors on Thursday after
                          naming his 22-man squad (or rather, dragging 22 names from the wreckage
                          of his plans) to play Ireland at the Millennium stadium this afternoon.
                          He was angry that almost all the questions concerned none of the 22
                          players named. They were all about Gavin Henson.

                          I can think of nobody in rugby that I respect more than
                          Jenkins. He is a delightful man of unforced passion. But I feel he has
                          made both a selectorial error and joined the majority of the Welsh
                          nation, and possibly rugby in general, in misunderstanding the nature
                          of modern celebrity.

                          Henson is the most talented player in Europe. His armoury is
                          immense. He has a booming kicking game out of hand; perfect, you would
                          think, for putting pressure on Ireland’s fallible back three. His
                          goalkicking range approaches 60 metres. His defence is so ferocious
                          that he can stall an opponent’s whole career, let alone a single burst,
                          with his tackling. Mathew Tait, crushed by Henson in the tackle in
                          Cardiff two years ago, has still to regain his place in the England
                          team. Perfect to stop the illustrious Irish midfield.

                          Henson can make space with his hands and feet. I remember him
                          making four half-breaks inside about 12 minutes of the Wellington-Lions
                          match on tour in 2005, and the only reason he did not break that match
                          apart at the seams was because of the lack of sympathy from those
                          trying to play off him, a common theme of his career.

                          And yet Jenkins has left Henson out of the 22-man squad even
                          though he was already without six leading backs — that became seven
                          after the suspension of Gareth Thomas. This means that Henson, my best
                          player in Europe, is not among the best 29 players in Wales.

                          Team harmony is critical. But is Henson really that
                          disruptive? Is it not the role of any elite group to absorb its top
                          players, whatever their character? Henson is singular, possibly self-
                          regarding. But I would still have hoped that the Welsh dressing room,
                          with its passion, professionalism and desperation for success, would
                          have been big enough to absorb such a talented prodigal. People say he
                          plays like an individual in a team game. That may be so, but it is also
                          the responsibility of a team to fit round its playmaker.

                          Jenkins states that Henson’s form is not good enough. Yet
                          Henson has been sent, head spinning, through a bewildering range of
                          different positions for the Ospreys, when he should always be left to
                          play at inside-centre. The anti-Henson sentiment inside Welsh rugby,
                          and in Wales at large, makes me anxious about all sides, not just
                          Henson.

                          Jenkins also refers to Henson

                          Comment


                            #14
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                            <h1>Blood and sweat could end in tears for Jenkins</h1>

                            @@@@SPAN ="byline">Stuart Barnes@@@@/SPAN>

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                            IT
                            WILL take a tremendous amount of sweat for Wales to beat Ireland this
                            afternoon. Stripped of so much inspiration by injury, Gareth Jenkins
                            has trusted to blood and sweat. The absence of Shane Williams and Mark
                            Jones, Wales’s cutting-edge wings, is a savage blow to a nation which
                            has long had the ability to survive on a wing and a prayer. With a pack
                            that has been steadily developing for a few years, Wales were hoping
                            that prayers might be surplus to requirements, but once again the
                            chapel doors are open to the rugby fraternity of the principality.

                            Jenkins has made headlines for his decision to take some Shakespearian advice from All’s Well That Ends Well
                            regarding Gavin Henson: “The soul of this man is his clothes. Trust him
                            not in matter of heavy consequence.” The kick that beat England two
                            years ago seems ancient history. But it is the less heralded decision
                            to ignore Dafydd James, the Heineken Cup’s most prolific try-scorer,
                            that could be more significant. In James, Wales had a ready-made
                            replacement for one of the absent wings; his form is as good as it was
                            when he won a Lions wing Test berth during the 2001 tour of Australia
                            and his understanding of the Welsh playmakers, Dwayne Peel and Stephen
                            Jones, is close to synchronised.

                            One of the outstanding features of the Scarlets’ superb
                            European campaign has been James’s ability to pick the right line off
                            his half-backs, Peel and Jones. He may not be as fleet as Williams or
                            as quick as Jones, but his rugby brain and strength are ample
                            compensations. With him on one wing, Wales’s incisive creative trio of
                            the half-backs and James Hook would have had a foil with which they
                            could have tried to pr**k a few holes in the Irish defence.

                            Instead, Jenkins made a late decision to switch the Harlequins
                            centre, Hal Luscombe, from outside-centre to right-wing. Luscombe is
                            performing well, but not as well at centre as James is as a wing. Nor
                            is the option without potentially bad side-effects. His move to the
                            wing means Wales must tinker with outside-centre, where Jamie Robinson
                            steps into the fold. His promise of a few years back has yet to
                            materialise, and it will be no surprise to see Ronan O’Gara and Co find
                            some gaps between him and the gifted but inexperienced Hook.

                            Chris Czekaj is a powerful left-wing but another man short on
                            international experience. He cannot be guaranteed to roam the broken
                            field in the manner of Williams, Jones or James. Wales and Williams
                            broke French hearts in Paris in 2005 as they deconstructed the game,
                            with the wings and full-backs roaring off the shoulders of the
                            half-backs and Martyn Williams. That ability to turn an opposition
                            defensive system into a kaleidoscopic nonsense is lacking out wide. The
                            exception is Kevin Morgan, a lit

                            Comment


                              #15
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                              <t><tr><td align="left" valign="top">@@@@SPAN ="date">The Sunday Times@@@@/SPAN></td>

                              <td align="right" valign="top">@@@@SPAN ="date">February 04, 2007@@@@/SPAN></td>
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                              <h1>Ambitious O’Gara aims high in battle for No10</h1>

                              @@@@SPAN ="byline">Peter O’Reilly@@@@/SPAN>

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                              LAST
                              week, when Brian O’Driscoll described Ronan O’Gara as the second-best
                              fly-half in the world, he did not mean it as an affront to Stephen
                              Jones, O’Gara’s opposite number this afternoon. The Welshman probably
                              did not take it as such either. No matter. The Western Mail did so on
                              his behalf.

                              “Our Ronan is best in Europe — O’Driscoll” ran the headline,
                              the gist of the story being that O’Gara had overtaken Jones, the Lions
                              starting fly-half less than two years ago. This, according to the Mail,
                              was fighting talk. O’Gara would have loved it. He cares more than most
                              about how he is perceived in relation to other fly-halves and likes
                              raising the stakes. O’Gara occasionally plays the humility game but
                              it’s rarely that convincing. At last Wednesday’s media gathering, he
                              tried telling the assembled hacks he was “just a small cog in a big
                              machine”. David Wallace and Geordan Murphy, who were sitting either
                              side of him, struggled to hold back the sniggers.

                              O’Gara puts the team first. At the same time, he thrives in
                              the duelling aspect of playing No 10, and the fact that the
                              performances of the two duellists attract more attention than any other
                              position on the pitch. Come 3pm today, he will be concentrating on
                              getting all parts in working order. But he will also have a plan for
                              the remaining few years of his career. He sees himself as being in the
                              middle of a race that culminates in June 2009, when the Lions run out
                              for the first Test against the Springboks. As things stand, he has two
                              main competitors for the Lions shirt. There’s Jones, a player he will
                              also face in a Heineken Cup quarter-final at Stradey Park at the end of
                              next month. And there’s one J Wilkinson, who happens to be two years
                              younger than O’Gara and Jones. It’s strange to think Wilkinson is only
                              27, though his body may not feel that young.

                              O’Gara is leading the race. By his own admission, he is
                              “probably in the best nick I’ve been”, yet continually looking to
                              improve, challenge himself and increasingly able to handle
                              disappointment. There have been a few high-profile wobbles, but he
                              appears to have learnt how to shut out negative thoughts and focus on
                              the next play.

                              O’Gara’s willingness has never been questioned, just his
                              technique and durability. Former Ireland defence coach Mike Ford used
                              to castigate him for employing the “toilet tackle”, as in “crouch, sit
                              and wait”, but he has worked on his footwork and physique. He’s not
                              blessed with the fast-twitch fibres of a Gordon D’Arcy or O’Driscoll.
                              But he has worked hard and it can be seen in his ball-carrying, where
                              he rarely loses the ball in contact like he used to. As for his
                              strengths, his passing remains a delight. There’s a misconception that
                              he learnt how to run and pass in Paris last February, as i

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