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Ruddock’s hopes for Welsh stars

Ruddock’s hopes for Welsh stars

Mike Ruddock is thrilled at the way the Welsh players have performed for the Lions in New Zealand and hopes to see them rewarded with Test places.

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“Shane Williams put in a brilliant performance against Manawatu this morning,” said the Wales National Coach. “What was great was that he didn’t just stay on his wing, he went looking for work but he also finished superbly well when he had the chance. He also kept popping up to put other players in try scoring positions. He can’t do any more know – it’s down to Clive Woodward to decide if he’s made the grade.

“I don’t think we can read too much into the fact that Shane stayed on the pitch for the full eighty minutes. Coaches take time to reflect after a game. They don’t make that kind of decision during the heat of the match but instead look at the tapes and make use of the technology that is now available to us to view a player’s performance. Clive will be able to look at the way Shane played in attack and defence at the touch of a button.

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“I haven’t been able to watch all the games having been in North America with Wales then with the U21 in Argentina so it’s been difficult to track all the players but I have seen the form of most of the Welsh players. They have performed consistently well and they have picked up nearly all the man-of-the-match awards. Hopefully now, they will feature more prominently in the second Test.

“Looking ahead to Saturday, the Lions coaching team have some challenges on their hands. First, the selection of the team, the functioning of the line-out and thirdly, they need to find a way of attacking the All Blacks from the outset and not allow them to get ahead.

“They are all experienced coaches and they are the ones out there, not me but I hope there will be as many Welsh players as possible in the side. I sincerely hope we get a result on Saturday – in order to keep the tour going for at least another week.

“We had ten players in the original squad and thought we could have squeezed a couple more in, but Ryan Jones had a terrific game against the USA and immediately got called out to New Zealand and what an impression he had made. I think Brent Cockbain’s call-up this week was also thoroughly deserved. Brent does an awful lot of unseen work around the park and this morning the Lions produced some quick ball which they have been struggling to do in other games so his contribution should certainly not be underestimated.

“I have sent a text to the Welsh players stating that perseverance is the mark of good international players so hopefully that perseverance will pay off for the remainder of the tour. Neil Back, Martin Corry and Richard Hill are fine players who Clive Woodward has worked with in the past and he put his faith in them for the first Test. That didn’t quite work out and now hopefully players like Martyn Williams and Michael Owen will come into the equation.

“We have to get the first one in the bag on Saturday, stoke up the heat and take it to the All Blacks. If we let the All Blacks get their tails up and take the lead, it will be very difficult indeed.”

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