Recent 6 Nations results dictate that Wales are not the same force as in 2012 and 2013.
With an in-form England team to play at Twickenham and the ever-dangerous Australians in what has rightly been dubbed ‘The Pool of Death’, there’s a very real possibility that they won’t qualify for the quarterfinals.
George North – Not only a potent finisher, North is unquestionably one of the premier wingers in the world at creating try scoring opportunities.
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A storming return in the closing round of the 6 Nations from a slight dip in form along with a strong Premiership campaign indicates the 23-year-old is timing his build up to the World Cup beautifully.
His versatility in covering both wing and centre will certainly be an asset to Gatland who will be ruing the loss of established outside centre Davies.
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Jonathan Davies – Gatland perhaps understated the significance of losing Davies to an ACL injury when he described the blow as a “disappointment” to the press.
Don’t let the calm façade deceive you though; Gatland will be losing sleep over this loss. One half of arguably the most effective centre partnership in world rugby, Davies’ pace and skillset seamlessly complement the raw power and size of his inside man, Jamie Roberts.
Scott Williams is a proven replacement of genuine quality, but international standard centre cover beyond Williams is thin on the ground. Furthermore, the Williams/Roberts partnership is relatively untested – which could be crucial in the pressure cooker World Cup environment.
Wales will struggle to overcome an in-form England team at HQ so will likely rely on beating Australia to progress through the pool.
World Rugby rankings have Wales (5) above Australia (6), so in theory Wales stand a strong chance of qualifying. However, with Wales’ last win against the Wallabies coming 11 matches ago in 2008, even the most confident Welsh fan will be watching with bated breath come October 10.
Unfortunately for Welsh fans, the Australians will likely have too much firepower and ‘big game experience’ across a star-studded backline and should be able to nullify Welsh bully tactics.
That said, if the Welsh can keep the game tight and Halfpenny is his metronomic self from the tee, the Wallabies could be set for an early flight home.
Wales will pick up solid wins against Fiji and Uruguay and fight valiantly against England and Australia but ultimately fail to escape the Pool of Death.