Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Cuthbert wins Howley endorsement

Alex Cuthbert has recovered after suffering a hairline fracture to his ankle.

Alex Cuthbert will return to Test rugby on Saturday accompanied by a ringing endorsement from Wales assistant coach Rob Howley.

British and Irish Lions wing Cuthbert has not played since suffering a hairline fracture of his ankle during Cardiff Blues' victory over Heineken Cup holders Toulon six weeks ago, missing autumn appointments with South Africa, Argentina and Tonga.

But after recovering ahead of schedule, he has been selected for Wales' Millennium Stadium clash and autumn series finale against Australia.

"It is great to have Alex back," said Howley, of a player who has scored nine tries in 18 Wales Tests, including match-winning touchdowns during Six Nations title clinchers against France and England in the past two seasons.

"He is probably one of the players we have missed a lot in terms of firepower.

"We spoke about the England game last season and about wingers who are winners and make a difference on the scoreboard. I am not sure many wingers in world rugby would have finished the two tries he scored that day.

"His work-rate on and off the ball is phenomenal.

"It is a big ask for him to come in after not playing for a few weeks, but that is how much we feel we have missed Alex."

The Lions' 2-1 Test series triumph against Australia this summer - Cuthbert scored a try in the first Test - was their first for 16 years, with 11 of Wales' starting line-up this weekend featuring in a squad coached by Wales boss Warren Gatland.

Wales, though, have found it a much tougher business beating the Wallabies, losing eight Tests in a row against opponents who will be a 2015 World Cup pool rival.

But Howley added: "We have not discussed the Lions. It is the three feathers and the national jersey (on Saturday).

"The aside is that the players who played against the Lions will, 20 minutes before kick-off at the Millennium Stadium, stand in the changing room knowing they have beaten Australia.

"How those players use that experience from the summer is down to the players as a collective and as an individual. It is new territory for some, but not for others."

And Wales captain Sam Warburton, who skippered the Lions in Australia, said: "The Lions has no bearing with any unfinished business.

"That is done now, and I don't think people will want to keep living in the past. We need to look forward and set new challenges.

"This is with Wales and feels completely new. The main aim is to put the Welsh record (against Australia) in a better state."

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