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RUGBY UNION: The cap fits you, Iestyn; HENRY DEFENDS DEBUT AFTER EALES RAP.

Byline: BEN WADE

GRAHAM Henry last night brushed aside claims he is giving Iestyn Harris his first cap on the cheap.

Aussie legend John Eales has accused the Wales coach of picking Harris before he has earned the right to play for his country.

Eales, who is in London to watch his former Wallaby team-mates take on England at Twickenham, reckons Harris should be learning the ropes of rugby union rather than making his debut today against Argentina after just 200 minutes in the game.

"I don't know much about Iestyn Harris, other than he was a very good rugby league player,"" said Eales, who stood down as Australia's captain in the summer after winning 86 caps in a glittering career.

"But I was surprised when I heard he was being picked by Wales so soon after moving from rugby league. You would think he would have to earn the jersey first, before being selected.

"It would certainly never happen in Australia, that's for sure. We value the jersey and insist that to get to Test level you have to earn people's respect by playing the game successfuly for a period of time.

"I don't know about the culture in Wales. Maybe it's different. But I would have thought any player would have to show he deserves to get capped being getting picked.""

The Eales' outburst - a fortnight before Wales meet Australia in Cardiff - echoes the firm stance taken by new Wallabies coach Eddie Jones towards migrating rugby league stars.

Former Aussie league aces Wendell Sailor and Mat Rogers have both hopped over to the greener grass of rugby union in recent months, but Jones left both at home before leaving for their current tour of Europe.

"We have league guys, but they will have to prove themselves at Super 12 level before they are picked by the Wallabies."

Harris is making his debut after just two-and-half matches for Cardiff, but his effect on both opposition defences and ticket sales before today's game has been dramatic.

A crowd of at least 60,000 is expected - 40,000 more than had been sold before Harris scored his hat-trick of tries against Glasgow two weeks ago.

Henry, however, insists the selection has nothing to do with box office, but has been made because of the player's background and the lack of alternatives.

"There are two factors that need to be remembered with regard to Iestyn," said Henry.

"Firstly, he has already proved himself at the highest level as a rugby player.

"Secondly, we are not exactly spoiled for choice in that particular position - so at the end of the day there was not much of a choice to be made. It is a steep learning curve and we won't see the best of Iestyn for at least 12 months.

"But he will bring an attacking dimension to the team which we think will be well worth having."

Henry added: "We are going to have to be right on the button. We will have to express ourselves and use the ball.

"We will have to play with a bit of pride and passion and play with tempo. There is no point playing a static game against a very strong team who can scrummage and drive forward."

Team manager Alan Phillips believes the Test squad were given a wake-up call after seeing the tourists easily overcome Wales A on Tuesday night.

"We have to play with commitment and enthusiasm,"will get a tuning off them," said Phillips. "The best thing we did was to go and see them play - we know it is not going to be an easy game."

Argentina believe they should have beaten Wales in the opening 1999 Rugby World Cup encounter.

They are determined to put the record straight after four narrow defeats in recent years.

"Wales were there for the taking," said skipper Lisandro Arbizu, who will win his 75th cap. "It was the opening game, but it just got away from us.

"We feel very confident. We have prepared very well for this Test because we know it is going to be very, very tough. We think we can win, but we have to do things perfectly for 80 minutes.

"People keep saying how magical Iestyn Harris is, but we are thinking about our own game, not about one player."

ENGLAND v AUSTRALIA - Pages 52,53

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READY FOR BATTLE: Wales coach Graham Henry and Iestyn Harris stand united yesterday
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 10, 2001
Words:743
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Next Article:RUGBY UNION: WALES v ARGENTINA: MILLENNIUM STADIUM, 3PM: 5 Key areas.


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