15th June 2012
Harris calls for passion from Wales players
Wales and France meet on Saturday in a big Rugby League international at The Glyndwr University Racecourse Stadium in Wrexham (kick-off 2.30pm), both making a number of changes from their last memorable clash.
Wales last took on France in 2010 in Albi, beating them 12-11 to win the European Cup, qualify for the 2011 Four Nations tournament and deny France entry.
Up to seven French players involved in that defeat 20 months ago will take the field on Saturday while Wales will only field up to six players from their historic win.
France are rebuilding their side since their disappointment while Wales have been hit with injuries and retirements and are also unable to call on six key international players who currently play their club Rugby League in Australia.
But Wales will have experience in the side, no more so than Jordan James who will win his 25th cap on Saturday cementing his status as third place in the Wales appearance charts and one behind legend of the past Jim Sullivan.
James is on nine tries for Wales while Rhys Williams, currently on try scoring form for his loan club Castleford Tigers, is on 11 and needs to score just once on Saturday to equal his coach Iestyn Harris’ Wales try scoring record.
Harris is pleased to call on such experience but also knows he has lots of talent in the ranks. He believes that there are now around 70 Welsh players of potential international standard now playing Rugby League so has had a lot of bodies to choose from.
“Saturday’s game is big for our development,” Harris said. “We’ve not had a mid-season test for 11 years. It’s an important part of our development that allows us to bed some players in.
“We’re a very young group which is exactly what we want. We’ve got a World Cup in just under 500 days and we’ve got to make sure that we have a group of players that we can trust. These youngsters need to put their hands up and say I’m ready to go in 18 months and ready to be part of the World Cup squad. You don’t get a chance to answer those kind of questions very often. So it’s been good to spend three days with them and I look forward to seeing them in action against France at The Racecourse on Saturday.”
Harris is very supportive of a mid-season international. Wales have been training weekly for the last couple of months but have only been in camp since Wednesday. Harris knows that it is difficult to prepare a side in that short length of time and looks forward to the extra time that he will have before the October’s big game at The Racecourse when the full England side come to town.
“It’s a rush to get a side ready in three days,” he said. You’d like three weeks with them but ultimately you can’t get that so you have to push everything through in three days.
“But they’ve responded exceptionally well. They’re young lads and the physicality of them against the French is going to be difficult as the French are a much more experienced and more of a physical outfit than we are.
“But what we can’t get beaten on is enthusiasm, heart, desire and passion. Those qualities are certainly things that we’ll be looking at. It’s a learning curve for us in the staff too, who we can trust and we can’t trust. But the players on the field on Saturday now have the opportunity, they are the players with the shirt who can stamp their authority on gaining a place in the internationals at the end of the year.”
“You can give us all the systems in the world but ultimately you need to see players in action. You need to see them in battle against good international sides and that’s what we’re going to get on Saturday when we take on a very experienced solid French team that are going to want to improve for their end of season campaign too.
“This French game is really going to test our youngsters. It’s exciting for me as it will be for the Welsh public, to see the next crop of Welsh youngsters coming through and see who will be good to enough to play in the big tournament at the end of the year and then the World Cup in 2013 in just under 500 days’ time.”
SQUADS FOR SATURDAY – PLAYERS IN BOLD ARE THOSE WHO PLAYED IN THE LAST ENCOUNTER BETWEEN THE TWO SIDES IN 2010
WALES 21-MAN SQUAD: Squad: Andy Bracek (Barrow Raiders), Jacob Emmitt, Daniel Fleming (both Castleford Tigers), Ross Divorty (Halifax), Danny Jones, Craig Moss (both Keighley Cougars), Ollie Olds, Jack Pring (both Leeds Rhinos), Michael Channing (London Broncos), Iwan Brown, Owain Brown, Christiaan Roets, Kriss Wilkes (all North Wales Crusaders), Jordan James (Salford City Reds), Joe Burke, David James, Steve Parry, Lewis Reece (South Wales Scorpions), Rhys Williams (Warrington Wolves), Rhodri Lloyd, Rhys Pugsley (both Wigan Warriors).
FRANCE 19-MAN SQUAD - Jean-Philippe Baile (Catalan Dragons), William Barthau (Saint-Estève XIII Catalan), Romaric Bemba (Carcassonne), Andrew Bentley (Lézignan), Kane Bentley (Lézignan), Thomas Bosc (Catalan Dragons), Olivier Elima (Bradford Bulls), Mathieu Griffi (Lézignan), Jérémy Guiraud (Carcassonne), Kevin Larroyer (Toulouse), Antoni Maria (Saint-Estève XIII Catalan), Grégory Mounis (Catalan Dragons), Mathias Pala (Saint-Estève XIII Catalan), Eloi Pelissier (Catalan Dragons), Stanislas Robin (Villeneuve Sur Lot), Clément Soubeyras (Pia), Mickaël Simon (Catalan Dragons), Cyril Stacul (Catalan Dragons), Yoan Tisseyre (Lézignan)