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Rugby Union: Boozers Beware!; Walker's warning before Japan tour.

Byline: PAUL WILLIAMS

WALES leave for their five-match tour of Japan today with Nigel Walker warning to the players: There's no place for boozers.

Player development manager Walker said: "This is an important tour and the players are expected to behave like professionals.

"There will be times for the players to have a couple of beers, but they will be few and far between and no one will be getting blind drunk.

"This is not an end-of-season jolly. We face four very tough matches and the players have to be totally focused.

"They need to show self-discipline and responsibility with coach Graham Henry looking ahead to the 2003 World Cup.

"I have told the players that it is not just about how they perform on the field which counts but how they conduct themselves off it."

Several of the 37-strong squad went on last year's development tour to Canada when back-rower Hywel Jenkins was sent home early for boozing and he has been in the international wilderness since.

"In the old days, touring was about letting your hair down," said Walker, an Olympic hurdler who made a late conversion to rugby and won 17 Welsh caps. "Times have changed and players now recognise that their livelihoods depend on how they perform.

"The players have to make sure in the coming weeks that they are a credit to themselves, their clubs and their country.

"There will be a time and a place for them to relax and have a drink, but only in moderation.

"We have an excellent bunch of players and I do not anticipate that there will be any problems."

Walker has completed his first season as player development manager and he is delighted he made the decision to switch from being a television pundit.

"When the job was advertised, it attracted me straight away," said Walker, who in his playing days was the fastest man in world rugby.

"It is great to be involved at this level again and it has been everything I expected it to be and more.

"There are a lot of talented young players coming through the system and it is my job to ensure that they manage their careers properly. It is not just a case of conditioning and playing.

"Rugby does not take up 24 hours a day and they have to look at aspects like getting qualifications for jobs and taking college courses.

"A player is only an injury away from the end of his career and it is essential that they ensure they have something to fall back on.

"My role is also to help them maximise their careers by looking after themselves. A player's shelf-life is short but Allan Bateman has shown if you look after yourself, you can play well beyond your 30th birthday.

"The game went from amateur to professional in an instant and players struggled to adjust.

"It took them some while to appreciate the sacrifices which had to be made, but they know what is expected of them now.

"Wales are fortunate to have a group of players in the national squads who are professional in everything they do and the Japan tour will be an important experience for the younger ones.

"We are missing our 10 Lions as well as Scott Gibbs and Ian Gough, so there is a lot to play for. Test places are at stake and reputations are there to be made."

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PARTY POOPER: Nigel Walker
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 28, 2001
Words:577
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