Welsh spirits remain high
PA Sport
September 11, 2007

Wales were given a major World Cup scare by Canada - but if the practical jokes are anything to go by then spirits remain sky-high in the camp.

Winger Mark Jones has been the victim of a couple of pranks with team-mates breaking into his room to fill it first with food and then a dozen bikes so he could hardly open the door.

Jones was determined to get revenge. He suspected the culprit was Dwayne Peel, his Llanelli Scarlets team-mate and Wales' captain against Canada last weekend.

And so Jones jumped the fence into a field which neighbours Wales' apartment complex, borrowed a sheep and sneaked it into Peel's room.

The sheep - now nicknamed 'Boyce' by the squad - was in there for an hour before Peel returned and made such a mess that it apparently looked as if someone had emptied bags of Minstrels all over the floor.

While spirits are high among the players, the Wales coaching staff face a difficult day today as they attempt to nail down a starting XV to tackle Australia on Saturday.

The main question Gareth Jenkins and his coaching staff are wrestling with is whether Stephen Jones and James Hook can both play in the same side.

Jones returned to action for the first time in four months against Canada on Sunday after recovering from a hip-flexor injury and made a huge impact.

Jones and Gareth Thomas came off the bench and helped dig Wales out of a major hole and turn a 17-9 deficit into a comprehensive 42-17 win.

``There are a lot of issues,'' admitted centre Tom Shanklin, who shone in the second half at the weekend and revealed the Boyce story in his blog for BBC Sport.

``Stephen was mad up for it against Canada. That was his first game after a big injury and he wanted to prove a point.

``He had missed out on the warm-up games then it was a case of `where does he fit in at the World Cup?'.

``So to come on and play like that in his first game was fantastic - he controlled it and played brilliantly.

``James is also a quality player and he weathered the storm.

``Where do they all fit in? That is a job for the coach.

``Whether it's James or Steve at number 10, they've both got the same style of thinking and they want to play the game in the same way.''

The other potential issue is at openside flanker, where a school of thought exists that Colin Charvis would be a better option against George Smith than Martyn Williams.

But it appears Australia could be preparing to play both Smith and Phil Waugh in the back row.

``They're starting to provide different things, Phil and George,'' said coach John Connolly.

``Phil is developing his running game quite well and there is a point of difference now I think. And that's good for Australia.''

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