IT'S CAPTAIN KOPCZAK FOR WALES
19th October 2012, 10:52
By Gary Baker in Arras
Age: 25 Height: 1.93m Weight: 109kg International caps: nine (ten on Saturday) International debut: 2007 ends.
International caps: nine (ten on Saturday)
International debut: 2007
CRAIG Kopczak will lead out Wales in their 2012 Autumn International Series opener against France in Lens on Saturday (ko: 3pm France time/2pm UK time) after being annouced as captain on Friday.
The 25-year-old prop forward will win his tenth cap for his country after being selected from a four-man 'leadership panel' by national coach Iestyn Harris.
Kopczak has been involved in off-field problems with Super League club Bradford Bulls recently but said he was putting that behind him for Saturday's match.
Wales' Player of the Tournament during last year's Four Nations Championships said: "It is an unbelievable honour. Everyone of the boys with Wales have congratulated me today and that means a lot to me.
"It will be a proud moment for me to lead the country out tomorrow against the French. I have gained a lot of experience and leadership in the past years and I hope I can now bring that to the fore.
"There have been a lot of amazing captains for Wales over the years and hopefully I can fill those boots.
"I am just going to put everything behind me now and do everything I can to help the boys win this game on Saturday."
Kopczak also believes Wales can set-up a double-header against England in the Autumn Internationals in the coming weeks.
Victory over France will mean they will go into next week's second Test match of the series against Steve McNamara's squad in Wrexham as hot favourites to reach the final where they will probably play England again.
Kopczak added: "We can definitely win tomorrow. The spirit in the camp at the moment is high and everyone is really confident. So, hopefully, we will have a really good contest and come away with the win and the points."
Harris has assembled his leadership panel from the senior players in the 19-man squad for the match, including Kopczak and Salford City Reds' Jordan James among them.
Whether Kopczak remains as skipper against England remains to be seen, with Harris saying: "We are delighted that Craig will lead us out against France. He is an excellent player, with lots of experience and who we are sure will do an outstanding job for us.
"He was one of the four-man leadership panel when we discussed the captaincy during the week and he will have the armband for this Test against France."
Kopczak, who missed the mid-season international defeat to France in Wrexham along with a number of key squad members, succeeds Warrington and Wales half-back legend Lee Briers in the hotseat for the first major tournament Wales have been involved in since that Four Nations.
Briers retired from international rugby after the Four Nations but is part of the Wales party in France this week as he assists Harris on the coaching front.
CRAIG KOPCZAK STATS