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Rugby fans see red as arch enemy steals Wales' colour.

Byline: By Paul Rowland Western Mail

England's new away kit takes on a scarlet hue THE Welsh rugby team will have a new red kit to play in at the World Cup this year - but they may not be able to wear it against England as they will also have a new red strip. The WRU confirmed last night that a specially designed shirt for the competition would be unveiled in July as the news emerged that England would also be wearing the colour for games during rugby's flagship competition this autumn. The final touches are currently being put to the new Wales Reebok kit, with prototypes currently being road-tested by clubs in training sessions to ensure its durability. Special versions of the kit will be manufactured to suit the needs of forwards and backs. But England are also likely to wear their own new red kit for some World Cup games.

If Wales finish second and England top their group in the first round, England would have the right to choose what kit they would wear for their quarter final meeting.

The possibility has left Wales fans angry at their fiercest rivals for apparently muscling in on their team's traditional colour.

Welsh rugby fan Chris Bates, from Cardiff, said, "I don't really see why England need to play in red. It's the colour we've always played in and everyone identifies it with us. I can't imagine England fans want to see their country run out against Wales in a red kit, it just wouldn't be right.

"England are the only country who play in white so I don't think they need an away kit anyway.

"They've played in white for as long as anyone can remember, but it looks like they're putting all that tradition to one side just so they can sell some more shirts to their fans.

"I think in rugby, more than any other sport, national teams are strongly identified by the national team colour. With only a small number of major rugby playing nations, each has their own colour and identity.

"Wales are red, England are white, New Zealand are black and Ireland are green. That's the way it's always been."

If England do play in red, Wales would be likely to turn to the silver kit worn against Canada in last year's autumn international. It is an alternative kit but has not been used in official international competitions.

But the idea that Wales' traditional colour might be hijacked angered Wales and Lions hero JJ Williams.

"Personally I don't like it when Wales play in grey or black," he said.

"I like to see Wales in red, and while I don't really care what England play in, there's no way it should be red, particularly if they're facing us. But if I was an England supporter, there's no way I would want to see my team turn out in red against anyone, especially Wales.

"I'm a traditionalist. England play in white, and we play in red."

Both new England kits have already aroused controversy among England fans, who are angry that both designs feature the St George's Cross far more prominently than the red rose, which has been the symbol of English rugby shirts since 1871.

A spokesman for the WRU issued a diplomatic response.

"We would be delighted if we had the opportunity to play England in the World Cup, and if we did play them the most important thing would be winning on the day."

He added that the WRU were producing a new kit just 10 months after the current shirts were introduced at the start of the 2006-07 season.

"There's going to be a special Wales Rugby World Cup kit.

"It's being designed by Reebok, and it will be unveiled in July in time to go on sale to the public later that month.

"The final design has now been reached and versions of it are currently being tested in training by various clubs around Wales. "The shirts have been designed to look good, but these are also going to be special Welsh shirts - there has been a lot of work on their functionality. "Lots of kits these days are designed as body armour in a sense, so the manufacturers have been looking very closely at that, including the different needs of forwards and backs. The amount of work that's gone into them means there will be something quite special about them.": Five great red teams:Manchester UnitedNewly crowned Premiership champions, and winners of more FA Cups than any club in history British LionsLittle success of late, but still wearing the same kit as the great sides of the 1970s LiverpoolFive European Cups, and 18 league titles, all while kitted out in red AC MilanChampions League finalists again this year, and going for their seventh title later this month MunsterArguably European rugby's most consistent club side in recent seasons.: Controversial kits:Cameroon's soccer kitThe African nation found itself in hot water, first for its pioneering sleeveless shirts, and then for a tasteful all-in-one number Manchester United's grey kitIn 1996 Alex Ferguson blamed the club's 6-3 defeat to Southampton on the fact that his players couldn't pick each other out in their new grey shirts Coventry City's brown classicAn abomination which has since become something of a folklore favourite, Coventry's brown shirts of the 1970s plumbed the depths of kit design.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 14, 2007
Words:899
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