The Welsh squad:
Iestyn Harris (captain)
|Group 2 news
The loss of former union stars Jonathan Davies, Paul Moriarty, John Devereaux, Scott Quinnell, Allan Bateman and David Young in recent years has brought about the need for a serious rebuilding of the Welsh squad. The professional status of the union code has meant team manager Mike Nicholas has had to take advantage of the parental and grandparent rulings for his selections.
However, a team with the talent of Iestyn Harris of Leeds and St Helens Keiron Cunningham must be recognised as one of the teams capable of reaching the semi-finals of the competition, the hurdle at which the Welsh fell in the 1995 World Cup. If these two world class players can inspire the remainder of the squad, and wing wizard Anthony Sullivan can make the most of his try-scoring chances, then Wales might just be able to shrug off the loss of a galaxy of international stars.
They do have seasoned league performers in Lee Briers, Anthony Farrell and Neil Cowie to give them the basis of a solid looking side and in Canberra Raiders rugged prop Justin Morgan, the Welsh might have unearthed a nugget from their party from Down Under.
In the heady atmosphere of the Millennium Stadium Wales could severely trouble an ambitious New Zealand side, but their ability to beat the Cook Islands and the Lebanon and qualify for the final stages will very much depend on the side remaining injury free. Three matches in eight days will be demanding for a squad that lacks genuine depth.