Commonwealth Games 2002
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Rugby 7's Thursday, 27 June, 2002, 16:55 GMT 17:55 UK
Howley has high hopes
Robert Howley leaves the field on his final appearance for Wales
Howley has a wealth of international rugby experience

Former Wales and Lions scrum-half Robert Howley is backing the Welsh sevens squad to enjoy a successful run at this summer's Commonwealth Games.

Howley, who retired from international rugby last April, is one of a number of experienced Test players who have been included to bolster the squad which has been competing on the IRB World Seven circuit.

Wingers Gareth Thomas, Dafydd James and Shane Williams also find themselves in the 20-man party.

Wales have been given an early chance to avenge their summer Test defeats in South Africa following the draw for the tournament.

The two countries have been pooled with Tonga and Sri Lanka for the competition in Manchester on 2-4 August.

"I wouldn't call this international rugby, it's the Sevens tournament," Howley said.

open quote
I think the semi-finals are not beyond us
end quote
Wales coach Colin Hillman
"I missed out on the last Commonwealth Games and this is a great opportunityfor me.

"I was asked to put my name forward and I'm happy to do that. Sevens isbecoming a major part of the international calendar."

Wales have used largely untried and inexperienced players while competing around the world on the sevens circuit.

Their best performance came in the England leg at Twickenham where they were beaten by eventual winners New Zealand in the semi-finals.

That was followed by a disappointing display on home soil a week later, but coach Colin Hillman believes his side is capable of coming home with a medal.

open quote
We're not going to make the numbers up, there's a mind-setthat we're going to do well
end quote
Robert Howley
"The Commonwealth Games will provide a massive opportunity that we shouldn't let slip," he said.

"With the progress we've shown this season, then I think the semi-finals are not beyond us."

Howley added: "We're not going to make the numbers up, there's a mind-setthat we're going to do well."

The 20-man squad will be whittled down to 12 before the Games begin in late July.

Wales squad: Gareth Baber (Pontypridd), Ben Breeze (Newport), Jason Forster (Newport), Gareth Gravell (Newport), Robert Howley (Cardiff), Dafydd James (Bridgend), Paul Jones (Cardiff), Emyr Lewis (Pontypridd), Mike Phillips (Llanelli), Craig Richards (Bridgend), Matthew Robinson (Swansea), Gareth Swales (Swansea), Robin Sowden-Taylor (Cardiff), Arwel Thomas (Swansea), Gareth Thomas (Bridgend), John Thomas (Swansea), Gareth Williams (Llanelli), Shane Williams (Neath), Steve Winn (Swansea), Gareth Wyatt (Pontypridd).

Commonwealth Games sevens draw & seeding

Pool A
New Zealand

Pool B
South Africa
Sri Lanka

Pool C
Cook Islands

Pool D
Trinidad & Tobago

1. New Zealand
2. South Africa
3. England
4. Fiji
5. Australia
6. Samoa
7. Wales
8. Scotland
9. Canada
10. Tonga
11. Cook Islands
12. Malaysia
13. Trinidad & Tobago
14. Kenya
15. Sri Lanka
16 Niue Islands

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