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Rugby Union: Hansen prepares to deliver some new forward thinking.

Wales coach Steve Hansen looks set to make three changes from the side beaten by France for next Saturday's appointment with Italy in Cardiff.

The likely switches will all be in the front five, with prop Iestyn Thomas, plus locks Ian Gough and Chris Wyatt, poised for starting places.

Caretaker boss Hansen will announce his starting XV from a squad of 22 tomorrow as Wales seek their first win of the tournament following defeats against Ireland and France.

Lock Craig Quinnell is sidelined with a knee injury, opening the door for Newport second-row forward Gough, while fitagain Wyatt is tipped to take over from Andy Moore.

Wyatt suffered an ankle injury inside the opening five minutes of Wales' 54-10 humiliation at Lansdowne Road three weeks ago.

Thomas has produced consistently impressive club form with Ebbw Vale and could gain Hansen's vote above Cardiff loosehead Spencer John.

The signs are that former rugby league star Iestyn Harris will not be returning to Wales' midfield, with Hansen giving his new centre partnership of Tom Shanklin and Andy Marinos another opportunity.

'We need to consolidate and keep working hard,' said Hansen, whose team produced a vastly-improved display in going down 37-33 against unbeaten Six Nations title contenders France.

Wales squad: K Morgan (Swansea), R Williams (Cardiff), D James (Bridgend), C Morgan (Cardiff), T Shanklin (Saracens), A Marinos (Newport), Harris (Cardiff), S Jones (Llanelli), R Howley (Cardiff), D Peel (Llanelli), I Thomas (Ebbw Vale), S John (Cardiff), C Anthony (Newport), R McBryde (Llanelli), B Williams (Neath), Gough (Newport), C Wyatt (Llanelli), A Moore (Swansea), B Sinkinson (Neath), N Budgett (Bridgend), M Williams (Cardiff), S Quinnell (Llanelli, capt).

Scotland manager Dougie Morgan has played down injury fears surrounding skipper Bryan Redpath, wing Glenn Metcalfe and prop George Graham after they missed yesterday's training session in the build-up to Saturday's encounter with Ireland in Dublin.

Metcalfe needed stitches in a deep gash in his hand sustained while playing for Glasgow in their 13-13 draw against Edinburgh on Friday but as the squad assembled at Murrayfield, Morgan insisted: 'The condition of Glenn's hand has improved greatly over the past 24 hours and we are happy about his fitness.'

Redpath and Graham also sat out training with neck strains picked up during action for their clubs in England at the weekend but both are expected to take a full part in the remainder of the preparations.

Ireland lock Paul O'Connell has been withdrawn from the squad ahead of Saturday's match.

The Munster second row, a surprise debutant against Wales, has a tooth abscess which requires surgery.

It means he will miss a second successive match after being forced out of the England game after suffering concussion during his debut.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 26, 2002
Words:451
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