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Commonwealth Games 2002
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Rugby 7's Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK
Howley wants medal farewell
Rob Howley
Rob Howley has targeted a Commonwealth medal

Rob Howley will represent Wales for the final time this week and wants to exit rugby's international arena with a Commonwealth Games medal hanging around his neck.

Howley has already retired from the Test match stage after winning a Welsh scrum-half record 59 caps - 22 of those as captain.

Wales, despite parading a squad that includes six internationals, are not expected to make next Sunday's sevens final in Manchester.

open quote
It will be the last time I pull on the Welsh jersey
end quote
Rob Howley

New Zealand, the IRB World Sevens Series champions, are overwhelming favourites along with their major gold medal rivals Fiji, South Africa and England.

But the Welsh, skippered by unsung Newport flanker Jason Forster, do not intend merely on making up the numbers.

With two teams advancing from each Pool, qualification for the knockout stage will probably depend on Wales beating a dangerous Tongan outfit, assuming that South Africa live up to their Pool B favourites status.

"I am a little bit nervous, to be honest," Howley, who moved from Cardiff to London Wasps this summer, said.

"I haven't played sevens since Hong Kong in 1998, but I can't wait. I am sure that over the next three or four days, I am going to learn even more about the game than I have already.

"I am really looking forward to staying in the Athletes' Village and meeting all the other athletes, but there is also an opportunity to win a medal, and that is an incentive in itself."

Howley, 31, had no hesitation in accepting Wales sevens boss Colin Hillman's invitation to join the squad, which meant teaming up with fellow capped players Dafydd James, Gareth Thomas, Arwel Thomas, Matthew Robinson and Gareth Wyatt.

"When I said 'yes' to playing for Wales in the Commonwealth Games, I didn't know then that I would be joining Wasps and moving to London this summer," Howley added.

"It has been quite hectic over the last three or four weeks trying to marry everything together, but having missed out on the Games in Malaysia four years ago, I am really looking forward to it.

"It will be the last time I pull on the Welsh jersey and, although I haven't really thought about the Games in that fashion, I am hoping they will bring the best out of me."

Like their medal rivals, Wales participated fully in last season's World Sevens Series, gathering priceless experience along the way.

"I feel that New Zealand and Fiji stand out, based on their past results, but there would appear to be a clutch of teams in a good position to win a bronze medal, including the likes of ourselves, England and Australia.

"Obviously, we have to come through our Pool, but it won't be easy with the likes of South Africa and Tonga there.

"Tonga is a key game. They've picked some of their Welsh-based players in Salesi Finau (Llanelli) and Dave Tiueti (Neath), plus Epi Taione of Newcastle, so they won't be easy opponents."


Wales squad: Jason Forster (Newport, capt), Gareth Baber (Pontypridd), Gareth Gravell (Newport), Rob Howley (London Wasps), Dafydd James (Bridgend), Emyr Lewis (Pontypridd), Craig Richards (Bridgend), Matthew Robinson (Swansea), Arwel Thomas (Swansea), Gareth Thomas (Bridgend), Gareth Williams (Llanelli), Gareth Wyatt (Pontypridd).


Commonwealth Games sevens draw & seeding

Pool A
New Zealand
Scotland
Canada
Niue

Pool B
South Africa
Wales
Tonga
Sri Lanka

Pool C
England
Samoa
Cook Islands
Kenya

Pool D
Fiji
Australia
Malaysia
Trinidad & Tobago


Seeds:
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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