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Page last updated at 12:03 GMT, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Peel set for Wales jersey battle

Dwayne Peel
Dwayne Peel has won 64 Wales international caps

Dwayne Peel hopes to shine in Europe as the Sale Sharks scrum-half bids to take back his Wales place.

The Lions star is in a three-way battle with fit-again Mike Phillips and Gareth Cooper to play at scrum-half as Wales plot their Grand Slam defence.

Cooper was picked ahead of the 27-year-old in the autumn Tests but Peel is keen to win back the number nine shirt.

"It is an exciting time as the Six Nations is around the corner and it is a Lions year as well," said Peel.

"The European games are very important for players wanting to put their hand up and get themselves in their country's Six Nations squad."

Mike Phillips has been Wales coach Warren Gatland's first choice scrum-half in the New Zealander's 12 months in charge and the 26-year-old helped inspire Wales to their second Six Nations clean sweep in four seasons.


But a cruciate knee ligament injury sidelined the Ospreys player for nine months which meant Phillips missed Wales' summer tour to South Africa and their autumn internationals.

Peel was Phillips's scrum-half deputy during last season's Six Nations.

However, when Phillips was injured Gatland overlooked Peel and started with Cooper as his first-choice scrum-half during the autumn internationals against South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

Peel's last Wales start was against Italy in last season's Six Nations win in Cardiff but the Sharks man wants to add to his 41 Wales starts.

Now Peel, the former Scarlets fans' favourite, realises he must perform well in Sale's final two Heineken Cup pool games against European champions Munster and Clermont Auvergne to catch the eye of coach Gatland.

Peel was the Lions scrum-half on their tour of New Zealand in 2005 and also hopes to impress new Lions head coach Ian McGeechan to retain his spot ahead of rivals such as Phillips and Scotland scrum-half Mike Blair.

Peel is almost certain to be in Gatland's Six Nations squad when the Wales coach announces it on Monday, 19 January at 1200 BST.

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see also
Phillips targets return for Wales
22 Dec 08 |  Welsh
Cooper released for Wales clash
24 Nov 08 |  Welsh
Cooper gets Wales nod over Peel
05 Nov 08 |  Welsh
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales
Heineken Cup
11 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
Rugby union positions guide
05 Feb 07 |  Laws & Equipment

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