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We're so glad Woodward has ignored Welsh.

Byline: By Andy Howell Western Mail

New zealand forwards coach Steve Hansen says he is relieved Sir Clive Woodward hasn't picked more Welsh players in his Lions Test team.

Former Wales boss Hansen - these days Graham Henry's NZ assistant - is particularly glad Woodward has opted for an England-dominated pack.

'It's a predictable, uncompromising unit which we have to meet head-on,' he said.

'We would have been more concerned at loose forward if the Lions had picked some of the Welsh boys available.

'The northern and southern hemispheres have two contrasting styles of play, but Wales play more like a southern team. We'll see which is best.'

Hansen continued, 'Given the style they play for their own nation, it hasn't been a surprise that all the forward ball-handlers in the Lions sides have been Welsh.

'Ryan Jones has forced his way in as a replacement for the Test side, but he or Michael Owen could have started at No 8 and Martyn Williams is particularly unlucky on the openside.

'But Sir Clive has gone for the people he had under him before with England.'

As for the omission of Wales centre Gavin Henson, Hansen said, 'It's tough on Gavin, but I wasn't surprised to see him left out of the Test side.

'A midfield of Stephen Jones and Jonny Wilkinson is very experienced and retains a kicking option.

'But Gavin's a good player who is getting better all the time and I expect to see him in a Test jersey before the tour is over.

'Missing the World Cup made him a better player and person, and maybe being left out of the first Test will have a similar effect.'

New Zealand go into tomorrow's game in confident mood, with Henry and Hansen hoping full-back Leon MacDonald completes a stunning return to Test rugby.

MacDonald's international career looked over after he decided to leave the game in New Zealand to join Japanese club Yamaha after the 2003 World Cup.

But, after spending just one season in Japan, the talented full-back invoked a clause in his contract which permitted him to return to New Zealand this year.

And in just a few short months he has gone from not even being in the Test frame to ousting last season's outstanding player Malili Muliaina from the starting XV for the first Test.

Henry admitted the decision to drop Muliaina was a tough one, but MacDonald's stunning Super 12 form with the title-winning Crusaders could not be ignored.

'Choosing between MacDonald and Muliaina at full-back was a very difficult decision,' acknowledged Henry.

'Leon's form has been outstanding in the Super 12 and he played superbly for the Maori the other day.'

MacDonald is one of six Crusaders named in the Test XV who will be playing in familiar surroundings at their home ground, Jade Stadium.

The 28-year-old does, however, concede that when he returned to New Zealand from Japan, playing against the Lions was the last thing in his thoughts.

'I didn't think I would get straight back in,' said MacDonald. 'I was probably looking at coming back to try and make the New Zealand Maori team. This is a really good bonus.

'To be picked against the Lions is a bit of a shock. I wasn't expecting it.

'Since coming back I've had to pinch myself because I've won a Super 12 title, beat the Lions with the Maori and I'm starting the Test against the Lions as well.

'It was a risk going to Japan, but I thought at the time it was what I needed, otherwise I didn't think I had many more years left in me if I just kept going the way it was.'
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 24, 2005
Words:615
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