Sun, Aug 26, 2007 - Page 23 News List

RUGBY WORLD CUP: Wales face France in cup warm-up

BACK Shane Williams returns to Welsh colors today after beating a condition that had begun to leave his right hand paralyzed in a clenched fist

AFP , CARDIFF

England's Andy Farrell, right, gets a fist in the jaw during a tackle from Wales' Chris Horsman during their international friendly at Twickenham, London, earlier this month. England won the game 62-5.

PHOTO: AFP

Wales front-row Chris Horsman wants to make sure last weekend's win over Argentina isn't a one-off when France arrive at the Millennium Stadium today in what will be both sides' final warm-up match before the World Cup gets underway next month.

Victory over the Pumas was only Wales's fourth in 15 Tests under coach Gareth Jenkins.

But they now face, on paper at least, a far harder task against a France side who are coming off back-to-back wins against England where they rendered the world champions try-less in both matches.

Jenkins has tested the patience of Welsh fans, his repeated predictions of a World Cup semi-final berth not matched by the reality of recent results.

"We need to grow that consistency. We need to go into games and, when we don't necessarily perform that well, we hang on to get the win," Horsman said.

Wales did just that against Argentina when, after being reduced to 14 men, they kept their opponents at bay after the Pumas came within a converted try of levelling the scores.

"It was great to beat Argentina but what we need to do now as a squad is grow that consistency and it will be a hugely physical test against France," Horsman said.

forward thinking

"You would not have said it five years ago, but they are now a disciplined side. Their coach Bernard Laporte is very forward thinking and you can see he has changed that squad," he said.

Meanwhile, wing Shane Williams returns to the Wales side after a nerve problem in his arm threatened to scupper his World Cup hopes.

The 30-year-old, who missed Wales's tour of Australia, their record 62-5 defeat against England and last week's win, underwent surgery after his condition began to leave his right hand paralyzed in an involuntary clenched fist.

worrying

"They sliced open a muscle and put the nerve underneath," Williams said. "It was fairly close [to affecting my World Cup]. It was quite worrying. The World Cup was not something I wanted to miss out on."

However, the Neath-Swansea Ospreys flyer said: "I am 100 percent fit. I have done full contact this week -- I was a bit wary but it went well -- and now I feel ready and raring to go."

Williams replaces Dafydd James in a Wales starting XV which features three changes from the morale-boosting win over Argentina.

Both the other two switches are injury-enforced. Jamie Robinson starts at outside center in place of Cardiff club-mate Tom Shanklin, rested after sustaining a knock to his knee, while up front tight-head prop Horsman replaces Adam Jones, out with an ankle injury.

France chief Laporte was not due to name his side until yesterday. But he was expected to make several changes to the Six Nations champions' line-up.

David Marty has a left calf injury and will be replaced by Damien Traille.

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