Wales pick an experienced Squad going into the World Cup. However Samson Lee, Alun Wyn Jones and Liam Williams are all injury concerns. The Welsh management have given themselves a plethora of options at Second Row and Backrow, but are shallow in Centre and Hooker with no real reserve. Only Taulupe Faletau is a specialist Number Eight.
Props: Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs), Paul James (Ospreys), Aaron Jarvis (Ospreys), Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Samson Lee (Scarlets).
Few shocks with the selection of Props, the Welsh Management will be sweating on the fitness of Samson Lee who is still recovering from an injury. Tomas Francis had a solid game against Ireland, and will probably be first choice until Samson Lee is fully recovered. Veteran’s Jenkins and James will be the loose head options with James also able to cover Tighthead. Aaron Jarvis earned his final spot and may well cover Loosehead in some matches as well as his usual Tighthead.
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Hookers: Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Ken Owens (Scarlets).
No surprises at Hooker. With Richard Hibbard axed it will be a straight shootout between Baldwin and Owens, with Baldwin slightly ahead in the pecking order after a strong cameo in Ireland.
Locks: Jake Ball (Scarlets), Luke Charteris (Racing 92), Dominic Day (Bath), Bradley Davies (Wasps), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys).
Wales couldn’t decide which Locks to take to the World Cup, so they took all of them. It’s an interesting choice, because James King can also play Second Rows, whereas none of the choices have any experience playing Backrow. I predicted that Dominic Day and Bradley Davies will see limited game time. Stand in Captain Alun Wyn Jones is struggling with a knee injury which may also limit his playing time.
Backrows: Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons), James King (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Ospreys), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt).
All the Backrow have earned their place, with Justin Tiperic putting pressure on injured Captain Sam Warburton, with a faultless display in Dublin over the weekend. Faletau is the only specialist Eight, however King, Lyidate and Warburton all have played there at club level at one point or another. James King comes in to the squad as a bit of a super sub, having played for Wales at four, five six, and seven. King has also been training at number Eight and is the most likely to deputy Faletau.
Scrumhalves: Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues).
Wales have gone with a young trio of Scrumhalves all with good seasons behind them. Lloyd Williams is probably the most experienced of the three, with Rhys Webb being the clear first choice. Gareth Davies may well see himself finally get a start in a Wales Jersey in a few matches.
Flyhalves: Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Matthew Morgan (Bristol), Rhys Priestland (Bath).
Biggar and Priestland have been the two constants for several seasons. The mercurial James Hook was axed early from the Squad bring experience and versatile with his ability to play Centre and Fullback to an international standard. Gatland may regret this decision later in the tournament, though it is unsurprising as the former Osprey has been out of favour for several seasons. Young Matthew Morgan comes in to cover Flyhalf, however he’s more likely to be deployed at Fullback or on the Wing if his passed selection is considered. New Zealand import Gareth Anscombe misses out despite being dual contracted, possibly due to ankle issue.
Centres: Cory Allen (Cardiff Blues), Jamie Roberts (Harlequins), Scott Williams (Scarlets).
Wales take only three specialist Centres, with George North as an emergency stand in. Young prodigy Tyler Morgan misses out, even though he holds a duel contract. James Hook may also have slotted in at Outside Centre but has been dropped. Jamie Roberts and Scott Williams are the pair most likely to start, with Cory Allen possibly on the bench.
Wings: Hallam Amos (Newport Gwent Dragons), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), George North (Northampton Saints).
Gatland has picked three specialist wings, young Hallam Amos has looked impressive during the warm up matches and can also play Outside Centre and Fullback. However the young Dragon is currently behind in the pecking order despite Alex Cuthbert looking off pace and overwhelmed in both Wales warm up matches. George North showed glimpses of being back to his best on Saturday after making a return from concussion.
Full-backs: Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon), Liam Williams (Scarlets).
Halfpenny and Williams come into the squad as the two specialist Fullbacks, however as I’ve mentioned both Matthew Morgan and Hallam Amos will be considered as Fullback cover.
Liam Williams is currently recovering from foot surgery and is likely to be played on the Wing when he returns.
Italy team Likely to face Uruguay
Warran Gatland has stated that the team selected to face Italy next weekend will probably be the team that faces Uruguay in the World Cup opener. It’s a team that’s unlikely to hold a host of regulars. Alun Wyn Jones will almost certainly be rested. Sam Warburton is likely to star however if he is fit, having yet to feature yet in Wale’s World Cup warm up. There will still be some X factor in the team however. The World Cup pool in which England, Wales and Australia feature may well come down to points difference, which means all three teams will want to score as many points as they can against Uruguay and Fiji, not that it will be an easy task.
Likely team to face Italy.
1. Paul James 2. Ken Owens 3. Tomas Francis
4. Dominic Day 5. Luke Charteris
6. Sam Warburton (capt) 8. James Kind 7. Justin Tipuric
9. Gareth Davies 10. Dan Biggar
11. Hallam Amos 12. Scott Williams 13. Cory Allan 14. George North
15. Matthew Morgan
Bench- 16. Scott Baldwin 17. Gethin Jenkins 18. Aaron Jarvis 19. Jake Ball 20. Taulupe Faletau
21. Rhys Webb 22. Rhys Priestland 23. Leigh Halfpenny.