Welsh debuts for Ponty pair
October 30, 2002

Pontypridd pair Sonny Parker and Gethin Jenkins will make their Test debuts when Wales tackle Romania in Wrexham on Friday night.

New Zealand-born centre Parker, 25, and 21-year-old loosehead prop Jenkins are rewarded for impressive club form this season during Pontypridd's march towards the Celtic League quarter-finals.

And they are joined by four club colleagues - fly-half Neil Jenkins, hooker Mefin Davies, lock Robert Sidoli and flanker Michael Owen - as Wales seek a flying start to their autumn international programme.

Parker, who has qualified for Wales on residency, becomes the sixth New Zealand-born Welsh international, following Dale McIntosh, Hemi Taylor, Matt Cardey, Shane Howarth and Brett Sinkinson.

Three other players, already capped, will make their first starts in a Wales jersey - Davies, Sidoli and the highly-rated Llanelli prop Martyn Madden.

Jenkins, Wales' most-capped player and world rugby's record international points scorer, makes his 87th Test appearance, but the first since April last year.

Wales coach Steve Hansen has made 10 changes from the side beaten by South Africa in Cape Town four months ago. Swansea and Lions flanker Colin Charvis continues as captain, despite Scott Quinnell's return to the starting XV.

On the bench, Cardiff hooker Andrew Lewis will take over from Robin McBryde if the Llanelli forward fails to recover from an ankle injury.

Hansen said recalling Jenkins to the national team to partner Llanelli's Dwayne Peel was a case of mixing 'the old and the new'.

He added: "This was an opportunity to bring Neil back to the international stage and see how he copes with that.

"It was also an opportunity to see him work with Dwayne and see how they combine together."

Jenkins, who missed nine months of last season with a knee injury, said: "It does cross your mind when you are out so long whether you will pull on a Welsh shirt again.

"I am just delighted to be back. It's a long way off but I am looking at next year's World Cup, I wouldn't be here wasting my time and Steve's if I didn't think I could contribute.

"But at the moment I am thinking about Romania on Friday and it will be great to play for Wales again.

"I have been happy with my club form and I am enjoying my rugby with Pontypridd. I have scored 80-odd points in four games and done everything that has been asked of me."

Wales: R Williams (Cardiff); M Jones (Llanelli), T Shanklin (Saracens), S Parker (Pontypridd), G Thomas (Bridgend); N Jenkins (Pontypridd), D Peel (Llanelli); G Jenkins (Pontypridd), M Davies (Pontypridd), M Madden (Llanelli), R Sidoli (Pontypridd), S Williams (Northampton), M Owen (Pontypridd), C Charvis (Swansea, capt), S Quinnell (Llanelli).

Replacements: R McBryde (Llanelli) or A Lewis (Cardiff), B Evans (Swansea), G Llewellyn (Neath), G Thomas (Bath), R Powell (Cardiff), S Jones (Llanelli), C Morgan (Cardiff).

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