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YOUNG: WHY I'M A BIG HEALEY FAN; Offensive, yes, but Austin's also just a cheeky Scouser.

WALES skipper David Young has pronounced himself an unashamed fan of England motormouth Austin Healey.

And he says the Welsh players overlooked for Lions Test selection in Australia have held clear-the-air talks with Graham Henry.

Extracts from Young's autobiography, which is published next month, will be revealed exclusively in Wales on Sunday starting next weekend.

But, in an interview today, Young reflects upon the wellhighlighted problems surrounding the tour and stresses it is time to put everything to bed and move on into the new international campaign.

That includes the Healey affair, after the Leicester man was fined on Thursday for his controversial pre-third Test newspaper article in which he labelled Aussie lock Justin Harrison an "ape" and a "plank".

Young said: "It's done and dusted and I think needs to be left after this.

"My view of Austin won't change over this. He's a real cheeky Scouser. You either get upset by his humour or laugh with him. I'm one of those people who enjoys Austin's company."

It also includes the issue of the Welsh stars who were disappointed at not being picked by Henry this summer - but who have to work with the coach again for Wales.

"Time is a great healer. We've had two squad meetings recently and Graham has also spoken to everyone individually to discuss where we go from here - not just the Lions, but the Japan tourists too, " Young told us.

"Things were a bit raw out there in Australia and players were bound to be disappointed.

"It was a bit unfortunate for Graham, in as much as he was head coach. But he was not the sole selector of the Lions Test team. And, in the end, only 15 players can be picked.

"Graham has indeed spoken to each of us and given us individual performance sheets, indicating where he thinks we can improve.

"It is up to each and every one of us to strive to achieve the improvement he is talking about."

In his book, Young will stress how well he gets on with Healey, despite the player's reputation for getting up people's noses.

Expanding upon why he likes rugby's most controversial player so much, Young told us: "I've been on two Lions tours with Austin, 1997 and 2001, and I just get on well with him.

"Austin can be offensive and downright rude at times. There is no doubting he opens his mouth - but there is also no doubting his ability on a rugby pitch.

"With regard to what happened in Australia, it was a throwaway, tongue-in-cheek typical Austin joke - but one which backfired.

"At the time it played totally into the Australian propaganda machine and Austin realised that straight away.

"I believe that had we won the third Test, a lot of these things wouldn't have been blown up.

"When you lose, people look for things that are not really there.

"But I don't think for one minute that what Austin said fired up the Australians.

"They wanted to beat the Lions, end of story. They didn't want it any more on account of something from Austin in a newspaper."

With regard to his book, Young said: "I've been quite fortunate to have a career spanning rugby union and rugby league over many years.

"I'm constantly being asked questions about my career, from when I first started to the modern day.

"I'm a bit of a reserved character, not one to push myself.

"But I felt it made sense to put down my views in a book."

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AUSTIN'S POWER: Healey has been fined for his his hard-hitting newspaper article and (inset) his mate David Young
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 9, 2001
Words:608
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