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Wales without Rees can count on Byrne to face England

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-02-05

The withdrawal through injury of hooker Matthew Rees and prop Gethin Jenkins deprived Wales of the opportunity to field an all-Lions front row. Fullback Lee Byrne has avoided suspension and will be at Twickenham on Saturday.

REUTERS - Nine British and Irish Lions in the Wales starting lineup should give the visitors a clear advantage in their opening Six Nations match against England on Saturday (1700GMT) even if the bookmakers disagree.

Wales are rated at longer odds than England to win the tournament, a reflection of their disappointing form in the November internationals.

The withdrawal through injury of hooker Matthew Rees and prop Gethin Jenkins deprived Wales of the opportunity to field an all-Lions front row at Twickenham but fullback Lee Byrne said that man-for-man Wales should be stronger.

"In 2008 we won at Twickenham for the first time in 20 years and it propelled us on to winning in Ireland. Nothing stood in our way," Bryne told reporters.

"If we can do the same this Saturday that will happen again. I have faith in all the boys who went on that Lions tour and that man-for-man we can be better than the England players."

James Hook will represent his country for the first time at outside centre, with Jamie Roberts returning to inside centre after an indifferent autumn series following his heroics with the Lions in South Africa.


Strength in depth

"We have always spoken about the skill set of James Hook. He's got that ability to play in so many positions and in some ways we are trying to find a home for James in regional rugby," said backs coach Rob Howley.

"James defended particularly well against Leicester in the Heineken Cup and in attack he's balanced runner, he's a creator he will open up opportunities for the backline."

From the booming boot and physical presence of Byrne at fullback through to Adam Jones, arguably the best tighthead prop in Europe, Wales have strength in key positions.

A possible vulnerability, however, is at scrumhalf where the powerful Mike Phillips will be badly missed. In the absence of Phillips and Dwayne Peel through injury, the selectors have opted for Gareth Cooper.

"We want Gareth to be more of a running threat," Howley said. "His passing skills are very good but we want him to run more against England.

"He is a Lion and forms a good partnership with Stephen Jones. We need that type of experience at Twickenham."

Date created : 2010-02-05

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