Sat, Aug 23, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Wales ready for England tune-up

RUGBY UNION With the World Cup just a couple of months away, players will be looking to book their tickets on the plane to Australia in today's Cardiff clash

REUTERS , LONDON

England football captain David Beckham and England rugby star Jonny Wilkinson appear in a television advertisement for a maker of sporting goods on Thursday. The advertisement shows Wilkinson teaching Beckham how to kick with a rugby ball and Beckham giving Wilkinson the inside track on his trademark free kicks.

PHOTO: AP

Wales and England head into their World Cup warm-up match today with vastly differing approaches.

England, unbeaten in their last 13 test matches, are using the game to fine tune their World Cup squad, something Wales coach Steve Hansen is acutely aware of.

"It's clearly not the best England team, but it's far from a weak side," said Hansen ahead of the match in Cardiff.

"A lot of their players are after a seat on the plane to Australia and that makes them very dangerous."

Wales, however, have selected a virtually full-strength side, vastly different from the one that lost 35-12 to Ireland last weekend and one aiming to win their first match against England since 1999.

"We did quite well in the Six Nations against England [losing 26-9]," said center Mark Taylor. "Now we've got them in Cardiff again and supposedly with their second-string side so I guess it's our best chance to beat them since 1999.

"We just need to start winning again. We've got an experienced side and they've got a few new caps in theirs. This is a chance for us."

England will be led by 103-test veteran prop Jason Leonard and include two new caps in centre Stuart Abbott and fullback Dan Scarbrough.

However, of most interest will be the performance of several fringe players who could book their seats to Australia for the World Cup in October and November with a strong match on Saturday.

Included in that list is tighthead prop Julian White who had a horrific run last season with injury and a 10-week suspension after being sent off in a club match.

"The game is a huge opportunity to do something and earn a place at the World Cup," said White earlier this week.

"I have had little opportunity in the past few months and perhaps I'd have liked a little more time. But we haven't got a lot of games for the coaches to watch now, so I know I've got to go out and perform against Wales in Cardiff and it's tough for anyone to go there. The first 20 minutes will be pretty fast and once we get back in the rhythm I'm sure it'll be fine."

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