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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 May 2007, 09:12 GMT 10:12 UK
Johnson backs Wales tour strength
Australia attack coach Scott Johnson
Scott Johnson knows the touring players from his time with Wales
Australia attack coach Scott Johnson has dismissed criticism from his fellow countrymen over the composition of the Wales squad that will tour this month.

Wales coach Gareth Jenkins has opted to leave 16 senior players at home for the two Tests in Sydney and Brisbane.

But Johnson, a former Wales caretaker coach, says there is still quality.

"Six of this squad has played with the British and Irish Lions and they will be chomping at the bit to have a crack at the Wallabies," Johnson said.

"Welsh rugby has greatly increased in depth in recent years and the team they are bringing out is brimming with international experience and are highly suited to Test rugby."

Gareth Thomas, who will captain the side with Stephen Jones remaining in Wales, Gavin Henson, Gareth Cooper, Brent Cockbain, Michael Owen and Dafydd James are all Lions tourists.

This touring pack will have more experience and be more abrasive than their Six Nations counterparts

Australia attack coach Scott Johnson

Former Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer, who took his side to World Cup glory in 1991, said he is tired of northern hemisphere teams bringing under-strength squads on tour.

England are in a similar situation for their tour to South Africa, although much of that has been forced by the absence of Leicester, Wasps and Bath players because those clubs are in European finals.

"It is harming the game and it is certainly harming the finances of the game," Dwyer said.

But Johnson says that Wales did so badly in the RBS Six Nations, avoiding the wooden spoon on points difference, that the squad heading down under cannot be considered inferior.

"The players they have left at home were all part of the Welsh team that finished equal bottom of this year's Six Nations, so I don't think the new players coming in can be regarded as second choice," Johnson added.

"This touring forward pack will have more experience and be more abrasive than their Six Nations counterparts.

Wales drew 29-29 with Australia last November after an inspirational performance from James Hook, who is set to retain the fly-half jersey for the tour with skipper Jones at home.

The two sides meet again at the Millennium Stadium on 15 September in a World Cup game which is expected to decide the winners of Pool B.

"Based on the number of changes, I think the Welsh coaching staff will use these matches to draw out their best 30 and will be testing as many players as they can before the World Cup," Johnson said.

"They know a good tour in Australia will put them into a strong position and come the World Cup there's a good chance that there will be many players from this tour in their squad."

Wales play Australia in Sydney on 26 May and again in Brisbane on 2 June.



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