Young ready to lead from the front
February 2, 2000

New Wales captain David Young is determined to continue the outstanding ork of his predecessor Rob Howley in his season's Six Nations Championship.

Young leads Wales into the Six Nations rena against World Cup finalists France next week, having succeeded his close riend and Cardiff colleague as captain.

It was a shock move by Wales coach raham Henry, especially given Howley's record 10 wins from the last 12 Tests in charge and a 68% overall success rate during 22 games at the helm.

No one was more surprised than 32-year old tighthead prop Young, but he is prepared to take on the added responsibility despite being promoted barely two weeks before a new international season begins.

He believes that scrum-half Howley will produce the type of quality performance Henry has demanded and which underpinned his reasons for appointing a new leader.

"Rob is very disappointed at losing the captaincy but he was the first to congratulate me which is a measure of the man," said Young.

"Welsh rugby improved greatly under Rob, and I know that I will get 150%from him. Now it is down to me to ensure we launch the Millennium with a bang.

"This first Six Nations will give us the perfect chance to make an immediate impact, but our first match against France will be an immense challenge for me as captain for the first time.

"I did not expect the captaincy appointment. It was a shock, and being such good mates with Rob has tinged my good fortune a bit. But I am proud for me and my whole family it is a great honour."

Henry maintains that by stripping Howley of leadership duties Wales will benefit by seeing the best from an undoubted world-class talent.

Young sympathises with the 29-year-old, though, adding: "We will have to see if the decision was right.

"Rob respects what Graham has done, but I don't think he necessarily agrees with it. He did not want to relinquish the captaincy.

"I think Rob was more concerned, initially, with being in the team. He thought if he was in then he would be captain and argued that he could not play any better whether he was captain or not."

Whether Henry is right or not only time will tell, but either way Wales cannot afford to let such upheaval upset their Six Nations ambitions.

With home matches against France, Italy and Scotland on the agenda, plus a trip to Dublin where they have lost just twice since 1982 Wales can feel optimistic about their chances.

France, complete with their new captain Fabien Pelous and coach Bernard Laporte, are first up, giving Wales a perfect opportunity for an immediate benchmark of where they stand.

"We know what is ahead of us," said Young.

"But we feel that if we play to our potential then we can win every game.

"There are no weak teams out there, and it will be a case of firing on all cylinders for any side that is going to be successful in this season's championship."

Wales set the Five Nations alight last term through stunning one-point wins over France and England, wrecking Clive Woodward's Grand Slam dream in the process, but their World Cup campaign proved a disappointment.

Defeats against Samoa and Australia frustrated an expectant nation, and many of those World Cup players will be out to make amends by orchestrating a successful Six Nations none more so than Howley.

"Losing the captaincy is far from an ending, more a new beginning for me," said Howley.

"The decision means I can now concentrate on the next chapter in my career, with the immediate aim of helping Wales win the Six Nations Championship.

"I can assure my successor that he will have my 100% support, both on and off the field, for as long as I wear the red jersey."

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