Warren Gatland has wisely opted to rest a number of his stars for Wales' opening World Cup game against Uruguay on Sunday
By David Marsh
Fit again Welsh stars Liam Williams and Samson Lee have been named in Wales’ starting XV to face Uruguay on Sunday.
After Wales lost both Rhys Webb and Leigh Halfenny to injuries ruling them out of the tournament, Welsh fans have sweated over the availability of Williams and Lee after both faced a race against time to be fit for the tournament.
Coach Warren Gatland admitted his relief at having both players available for selection again.
“It is great to have Liam and Samson back in the starting line-up. They have trained incredibly hard and Sunday is a great opportunity for them,” he said
Welsh fans will be happy to see elusive attacker Williams back in the team, who is joined in the back three by Alex Cuthbert and Hallam Amos, in what will be seen as a straight shoot-out for the left-wing spot for the England game.
The resting of first choice winger George North is vital to keep the Lions series winner fit for next week’s clash with hosts England and the final fixture against the Wallabies.
North suffered four concussions in only five months, so keeping him protected is one of Gatland’s main priorities.
Considering Wales’ terrible luck with injuries, resting first choice fly-half Dan Biggar was vital for Wales. The thought of losing the 25-year-old to injury could be terminal to Wales’ chances.
Biggar has matured into a more rounded player in recent years and is vital for Wales. He commands the backline with confidence and is a vital cog for Wales’ World Cup hopes.
Rhys Priestland, who has come under heavy criticism from Welsh fans over the last few years, gets his chance to re-discover the form he showed during the 2011 World Cup, and is partnered by the promising, yet largely untested, Gareth Davies at scrum-half.
The combination of Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric in the back row for Wales will bring back memories of the 30-3 thrashing of England in 2013 and gives Wales a more attacking options in the back row than usual.
Tipuric fully deserves his chance to start after his performances home and away against Ireland in the warm up matches. The Ospreys flanker showed what a technically gifted player he is and more than justifies his place in the starting XV.
Tipuric adds another dimension to Wales’ back row. With his creative mind and all-court ball skills meaning he would not look out of place playing in the centre.
James King comes in at No 8, a position that is not so familiar to him. However, with respect to Los Teros, he should have a pretty comfortable platform to attack the fringes.
Gatland has wisely opted to rest Gethin Jenkins, Alun Wyn Jones and Taulupe Faletau from the pack – three British Lions test starters who will be needed for far tougher upcoming fixtures.
However the tight five of Paul James, Scott Baldwin, Lee, Jake Ball and Luke Charteris are still of a very high standard; none of which would look out of place in Wales’ first choice XV.
On the whole, Gatland’s selection for Sunday is pragmatic but the Kiwi is fully aware that despite Uruguay’s lowly world ranking, the South American’s still need to be dispatched wth the minimum of ease, with no injuries.
“Uruguay will be looking to show what they are capable of and we know we need to be clinical on Sunday,” he said.
“Playing in a World Cup, in your home country, at your home ground is a great honour and I’m sure the players will take that into the game.
Line up v Uruguay:
Liam Williams, Alex Cuthbert, Cory Allen, Scott Williams, Hallam Amos, Rhys Priestland, Gareth Davies, Paul James, Scott Baldwin, Samson Lee, Jake Ball, Luke Charteris, Sam Warburton, Justin Tipuric, James King
Ken Owens, Aaron Jarvis, Tomas Francis, Dominic Day, Dan Lydiate, Ross Moriarty, Lloyd Williams, Matthew Morgan