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Last Updated: Friday, 28 January, 2005, 16:26 GMT
Ruddock gives 'licence to thrill'
By Bryn Palmer

Wales captain Gareth Thomas scores against England last year
Wales have stretched England twice recently
Wales coach Mike Ruddock will not rein in his side's attacking style as they attempt to translate recent promise into RBS Six Nations success.

"We have a way of playing that excites people, a style the players enjoy and the Welsh public like to see," he said.

"It is our job to make sure they play to the best of their ability and be excited about that.

"We feel if we encourage those traits, we will get more good performances than if we try to shackle them."

Wales have given England a major scare in their last two encounters, first at the World Cup and then at Twickenham last season.

There is a growing belief that a first victory over their old foes since 1999 is within their grasp, and a first win over England in Cardiff since 1993.

"We take it as a compliment that people are saying we have got a chance to beat the world champions," Ruddock said.

Gavin Henson (centre) celebrates a Welsh try with his team-mates
"At the same time we are trying not to put too much pressure on the players. We want to keep them away from that sort of hype but we are not asking them to rein back.

"It is more about the excitement we can generate."

One player who has excited more than most is centre Gavin Henson, who will carry a large burden as the side's chief playmaker.

"If not now then in the near future, he is going to be one of the best players in the world," said Wales captain Gareth Thomas.

"He is lucky at the moment in that he has a coach and management team at international level that not so much protect him, but keep him focused on rugby.

"There are a lot more temptations for a player of his quality. The main thing is he concentrates on rugby and nothing else. If he does that, he will become one of the stars of the game."

Wales' preparations to face England have been hindered by the loss of flankers Colin Charvis and Martyn Williams.

But Ruddock is confident there is sufficient quality and spirit in the squad to overcome that setback.

"There is a great team spirit, great camaraderie, great leadership provided by Gareth Thomas and a great desire to do well," he added.

"Any new players coming in will pick up on that and hopefully take their opportunity to be a part of it.

"If we push forward and improve things by 1% in each area - attack, defence, set-pieces, discipline - those small improvements will make the difference."




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