Warren Gatland will be finishing the final touches to his 31-man squad which will be announced tomorrow at 1pm. Will there be any surprises?
This may not be the squad Warren Gatland pick tomorrow at midday but it’s the squad we believe he should pick. Sadly there is no place for Eli Walker, Matthew Morgan or James King for the reasons given, but it has power, experience and a smattering of stardust that will equip Wales with a squad that will be respected, if not feared at the World Cup.
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Wales 31-man squad (17-14 split)
What can you say? Became the most capped lock forward of all time against Ireland, with 120 Test run outs. Jenkins is rock-solid over the ball, able to hold his own at the set-piece and acts an auxiliary back-row at the breakdown. Adds leadership experience and is respected by all.
Possesses the vital ability to play on port and starboard in the front row and with over 60 caps, he’s rarely been bested at the coal face for Wales. Another loosehead who will rack up the tackle-count in the loose.
The moment Samson Lee keeled over against Ireland in March, it’s been a race against time for the Scarlets tighthead to recover from an Achilles injury. Absolutely vital to Wales’ scrum, he’s said to be progressing well and will be given every opportunity to be fit for the England game on September 26.
Saturday was a big test for 20st Francis and save for one scrum at the end of the first-half he competed well with his extra bulk giving Jack McGrath problems at the engagement. Looks unlikely to last 80 minutes but looks to be given the nod for 50 mins if Lee doesn’t recover in time.
A tight, tight-call, the West Walian has seen off Nicky Smith, for whom a long-term injury put paid to his hopes and tighthead Aaron Jarvis, as Lee, Francis and Paul James can cover at No 3. An ebullient character, Evans a decent carrying game and is improving at the set-piece.
Ken Owens recovered from a long-term injury to finish the season strongly with the Scarlets. An abrasive presence in the loose, he rarely fails to break the gainline. Owens will vie with Baldwin for the No 2 shirt. Few more committed players in a red shirt.
A former skateboarder, Scott Baldwin matured late professionally, finally being given the chance to nail down a regional spot vacated by Richard Hibbard at the Ospreys. Another whose throwing and set-piece work has improved immeasurably in the last 18 months.
Popular opinion would still have Hibbard in the 31-man squad in what was Warren Gatland’s most contentious squad cut, but Dacey has done all that is asked of him. A very strong-carrier, he has usurped Matthew Rees as first-choice Blues hooker and will proved back-up at the World Cup.
Alun Wyn Jones
There were several (million) concerned faces when Alun Wyn Jones went down clutching his knee against Ireland, and with good reason. Wyn Jones is one of the world’s premier locks whose performance levels rarely drop below excellent. Confident to off-load in tight exchanges, he only asks of his team-mates what he’d be prepared to do himself.
Charteris is a classic No 5, extremely tall, his slim frame is easy enough to lift to secure decent ball off the top for Wales. Charteris is also a decent carrier in the up the guts of a defence and has a remarkable tackle-count – he made 12 tackles in only 23 minutes in Dublin.
Famed for his WG Grace beard, Ball is a former cricket professional who offers a weighty backrow to the engine room. Still fairly raw in international terms, his ballast and power in the engine room gets him the nod over the more lightweight James King who can cover anywhere in the back five. Wales should take four lineout specialists.
The experienced Davies has had an injury-hit season with Wasps and there were murmurs about his fitness before this World Cup, but those were allayed in Dublin where his commitment, tackle count and grunt up front make him a worthy addition to the squad.
Now regarded as one of the premier statesmen in world rugby, Warburton showed stellar form during the Six Nations and only missed the Ireland game through a pinched nerve in the shoulder. Brings experience of captaining Wales to a World Cup semi-final, Grand Slam and Lions Series. His leadership is vital to Wales.
Lydiate has had his detractors of late, who have pointed to his lack of versatility beyond his famed chop tackling. He answered them emphatically against Ireland, not only with 25 tackles in just 60 minutes, several that drove Irish defenders backwards outline his importance to Wales’ defensive effort but with his ball-carrying. Part of an experienced trio with Taulupe Faletau and Warburton.
An everpresent in the Wales backrow, Faletau has had transfer speculation hanging over him for months but it doesn’t seem to have affected his on-field performances. One of Wales’ most consistent players, his carries, defensive work and ball-work at the base of the scrum make his one of Wales go-to men.
Tipuric has been outstanding in Wales’ last two games, harrying, stealing and linking play in performances, which have brought him two tries. Not the strongest over the ball, he is nevertheless a tackling limpet, with 42 tackles in his last two games, a superb link-man in the wide-channels and has the handling-skills to play in midfield.
Moriarty has been a bolter for Wales since emerging last season with Gloucester. With famous family members, Uncle Richard, and dad Paul, Moriarty has continued to bring the famed Moriarty edge to the game. As a former Junior World Championship winner with England, a former full-back has good leg speed and an aggressive defence.
Arguably Wales’ most improved player in the last 18 months, Webb has been in spectacular form in the last 18 months, scoring 17 tries in 26 appearances. He now ‘owns’ the No 9 jersey, Mike Phillips has worn since 2008. Always looking for the half-gap and a superb box-kicker, Webb also boasts a close partnership with Dan Biggar.
Davies is a similar player to Webb, with snappy service, blistering-speed over the first 30m which keeps defenders busy around the fringes. He had a few issues with discipline at the end of the season but is expected to be Webb’s understudy during the World Cup.
The player widely credited with forcing Mike Phillips out of the squad, Williams, a tourist in 2011 with Wales, has fought his way back to form and fitness and his sharpness at Wales’ fitness camps have impressed Wales coaches enough to ink him in.
Maligned in his early career, Biggar has shown the strength-of-character to battle back and form a respected half-back partnership with Webb. A top-class goalkicker in his own right – he has over 1900 points for the Ospreys and Wales – he offers valuable back up to Halfpenny but is a brilliant organiser and brave exponent of the kick and catch.
Priestland was one of the surprise packages of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, and he is highly-rated within the Wales ranks for his gifts as a distributor and kicking from hand. A confidence-player, he has had his ups and downs, but is clear No 2 to Dan Biggar for the 10 slot.
Anscombe’s organisational skills were duly noted against Ireland in Cardiff, with his weighted pass for Alex Cuthbert’s late try, was an example of his vision. His ability to play at 15 earns him the nod, unless he ruled out due to a rolled ankle in training. If he’s too much of a risk, Matthew Morgan is first in line for a call-up.
A talisman of Warren Gatland’s squad, Roberts is a double-Lion, Grand Slam winner and defensive captain, and is essential to Wales’ ability to get over the gainline. The 6ft 4in, 17st 4lb centre has a better handling game than many give him credit for.
More used to inside-centre, Williams will be called on to cover Jonathan Davies’ position in the outside midfield channel where he’ll have more responsibility defensively. A powerful ball-carrier, he has the speed to slice through gaps and has a knack of scoring key tries.
Morgan’s place in the squad is assured due to Davies’ injury. Only 20, he is highly-regarded within the Wales management earning a dual-contract at 19, and despite a nervy debut against Ireland, his strength, ability to pick clever lines and solid defence earn him a spot.
North made a welcome return to international rugby after a well-documented break from the game, to become the youngest international to reach 50 caps. Immensely powerful, swift of foot and a good footballer, he is one of Wales’ match-winners. Can cover at 13 if called upon.
Cuthbert hasn’t been in the best of form in the last 12 months. He’s lost confidence and doesn’t seem to be finding the gaps he had when scoring 14 tries in his first 28 Wales appearances. However, he has shown he can cut-it at the top-level and presents less of a leap of faith from the talented, Walker.
Amos is prodigiously talented 20-year-old. The top carrier in the Challenge Cup with 510m, he’s able to play anywhere in the back three and is a useful left-footed kicking option.
Another go-to man for Gatland, Halfpenny is arguably the world’s best place kicker, with 493pts already racked up. He is brilliant positionally, extremely brave in defence and a fine proponent of the kick and collect. Worth his weight in, er, golden boots.
Williams has become one of Wales’ most important players. A full-back by nature, he loves breaking into the line from deep, is ferocious in defence and taking the high-ball. Will more likely cover at wing, if he’s recovered from a foot injury.
Out of squad