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BBC Wales's Bob Humphrys
"The week that was - rows over eligibility, hunts for birth certificates and a player renouncing Wales over overseas imports."
 real 28k

Friday, 17 March, 2000, 18:52 GMT
D-day for Celts and their Kiwis

Kiwi Martin Leslie trains with Gregor Townsend
Wales go into their penultimate Six Nations clash on Saturday depleted by an eligibility row, but Scotland retain their foreign strike force for the Millennium Stadium match.

Six Nations Championship
It is a must-win scenario for both sides, with just a single victory between them - the Welsh trouncing of Italy four weeks ago.

Similarly, the two nations' highly-respected coaches are undergoing a crisis in the confidence that was placed in them at the start of the championship.

Ian McGeechan has signally failed to produce the ray of hope that many had anticipated upon his return to the job of coaching Scotland, the last ever Five Nations champions.


Recent Nations results
1999: Scotland won 33-20
1998: Wales won 19-13
1997: Wales won 34-19
1996: Scotland won 26-13
1995: Wales won 29-6
Successive defeats by Italy, Ireland and France have raised the spectre of a whitewash, especially with impressive England their only remaining opponents after Wales.

But McGeechan has been extremely limited by resources, and it was with this in mind that the Scottish Rugby Union said this week it would defend the right for players to qualify for a given country through their grandparents.

Chief among the Tartan Army's foreign recruits who have qualified through relations is incumbent captain and centre John Leslie, and he will lead a side reinforced by fellow Kiwis Glenn Metcalfe and his brother Martin Leslie.

By contrast, in an effort to call to a halt to the rumbling scandal started by questions over the heritage of New Zealander Brett Sinkinson, Wales have carried out a purge of their overseas stars, most significantly former All Black Shane Howarth.

Ironically, it is another Kiwi, Matt Cardey, who wins his first cap as a replacement for Howarth at fullback after he proved beyond doubt his Welsh ancestry.


Graham Henry
Under pressure: Henry is facing rebellion
The whole episode has been an enormous embarrassment for Wales' rugby hierarchy and has led to the first rumblings of discontent with coach Graham Henry, himself a New Zealander.

Dubbed "The Great Redeemer" before the World Cup, Henry has seen the side that produced 10 successive Test victories crash to heavy Six Nations defeats against France and England.

And now Wales A fly-half Byron Hayward has refused to play under the coach, because he is angry that foreign stars have denied Welsh players their chance.

A defeat to off-form Scotland could signal the beginning of the end for Henry, and such is the climate of uncertainty in Cardiff that some are tipping Scotland as the favourites.

Speaking after training on Thursday, McGeechan laughed off the suggestion.

"I have never had the experience of Wales being underdogs for an international in Cardiff before and that is not the case now," he said.



I have never had the experience of Wales being underdogs for an international in Cardiff before and that is not the case now

Ian McGeechan, Scotland coach
"And if you look back through the championship, their performances have been a lot more impressive than ours, even in defeat.

"The priority is to get our own house in order."

Henry's team for Saturday is something of an unknown quantity, featuring eight changes, one of them positional.

A crucial area will be the half-backs, where out-of-favour Rob Howley and injured Neil Jenkins make way for veteran Rupert Moon at scrum-half and Llanelli's Stephen Jones at fly-half.

Scotland have also made changes in this department, shifting Lions stand-off Gregor Townsend to centre with fly-half Duncan Hodge lining up alongside scrum-half Andy Nicol.

Moon, collecting his first cap after a layoff of several years, said: "We have got a collective spirit - we are new faces ready to do well.

"Scotland must be rubbing their hands with delight at what has gone on here, but I think we are all of the same attitude that we are going to give it everything."

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See also:

15 Mar 00 | Rugby Union
All Black Saturday?
15 Mar 00 | Rugby Union
Scots to defend 'grandparent rule'
15 Mar 00 | Six Nations
Townsend bolsters Scots midfield
13 Mar 00 | Six Nations
Howarth axed in foreigner purge
09 Mar 00 | Rugby Union
Logan axed for Wales clash
04 Mar 00 | Six Nations
Rampant England batter Welsh
04 Mar 00 | Rugby Union
Scottish errors punished by French
Links to other Six Nations stories are at the foot of the page.