Thu, Feb 24, 2005 - Page 20 News List

New format may benefit Springboks

INTERNATIONAL RUGBY South Africans say time zone differences and travel place them at a disadvantage in Super 12 competition, but the field may soon level out

AP , WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALANDAP, LONDON, CARDIFF, WALES, MARCOUSSIS, FRANCE AND ROMEAP, WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND

Ireland is favorite to win the tournament and its first Grand Slam since 1948.

"This game against Ireland will be massive," Robinson said. "We recognize it's a must-win game for us this season."

Wales

Wales made two changes yesterday for its Six Nations match against France as it bids for its third straight win.

Wales coach Mike Ruddock selected Kevin Morgan on the right wing, replacing the injured Hal Luscombe, while Ryan Jones was chosen at blindside flanker over Jonathan Thomas, who was dropped to the bench.

"Due to his impressive performances from the bench, Kevin was very much in the selection mix anyway, and the unfortunate injury to Hal gives him the chance to start," Ruddock said.

"Now that Ryan Jones has recovered from injury, we have increased the options in the back row. Jonathan Thomas is unlucky to lose his spot after performing well against Italy and scoring a try, but such is the competition for places that every position is debated in detail."

Rhys Williams replaces Morgan on the bench.

Wales beat England 11-9 in Cardiff, then crushed Italy 38-9 in Rome. Defending champion France also is unbeaten, but Wales has won in Paris twice in its last three visits.

"For this particular game, we felt we might not always be afforded the open spaces out wide we were able to exploit against Italy, so an extra big ball carrier in the back-row [Jones] is thought to be necessary on this occasion," Ruddock said.

FRANCE

France coach Bernard Laporte made four changes to his team to face Wales in an upcoming Six Nations clash that is already shaping up as a key match.

Laporte, renowned for continually reshaping his team, decided against sticking with the same players which helped win 18-17 against England at Twickenham two weeks ago.

"If we need a starting team, we continue to function with the idea of 22 players as we do not forget that those who came on in the second-half at Twickenham helped to boost the team," team manager Jo Maso told reporters at the Marcoussis training camp.

At fullback, Julien Laharrague makes his debut in place of Pepito Elhorga, who is dropped, while at center Yannick Jauzion comes in for Brian Liebenberg.

Winger Aurelien Rougerie returns from injury and Yannick Nyanga steps in at third row -- the only change Laporte made to his pack. Nyanga did well coming off the bench against Scotland and England.

At flanker, Serge Betsen has recovered from a knock picked up against England and will add his strength and drive to Laporte's team.

Dimitri Yachvili, scorer of all France's points at Twickenham, continues at scrumhalf alongside flyhalf Yann Delaigue -- who is still keeping Frederic Michalak out of the team.

France and Wales have won their opening games and Saturday's showdown at Stade de France is billed in some quarters as a potential Grand Slam decider.

ITALY

David Dal Maso replaced injured Mauro Bergamasco and veteran Christian Stoica rejoined the Azzurri for his 62nd cap as coach John Kirwan announced Italy's squad Tuesday for its upcoming Six Nations match against Scotland in Edinburgh.

Italy is coming off consecutive home losses against Ireland and Wales and badly needs a win against Scotland on Saturday before playing England and France to avoid finishing last in the competition.

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