Last Chance For Wales' Players To Impress Ahead Of World Cup Squad Announcement

Wales take on Ireland in two warm-up games ahead of the World Cup in Japan.
13:31, 31 Aug 2019

Plenty of hype surrounds Wales as they prepare for their final two warm-up games against Ireland ahead of the World Cup in Japan.

Warren Gatland's men, the reigning Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam champions, are riding the crest of a wave and face the Irish after a defeat and a victory against England earlier this month.

The loss to the Red Rose at Twickenham ended Wales' record-breaking 14-match winning run but victory over England six days later took Gatland's side top of the world rankings for the first time.

"It’s just a number, isn’t it?" said Gatland afterwards.

"It’s a nice accolade to have but it’s all about the next few months and backing it up in the World Cup.

"We’ve got a couple of games against Ireland to go as well.

"It’s nice for a day but we won’t be shouting from the rooftops about it. We’ve got to keep things in perspective."

A tough warm-up schedule - double-headers against England and Ireland - should certainly ensure they are battle-hardened when the serious business gets underway in Japan next month.

Gatland's men are in Pool C with Australia, Fiji, Georgia and Uruguay.

Wales suffered defeat at the quarter-final stage at the 2015 World Cup, losing 23-19 at Twickenham, but hopes are high that Gatland can take them all the way to the final this year.

Saturday's visit of an Ireland side still smarting from a 57-15 defeat to England last weekend should prove intriguing.

Only one player who started Wales' 13-6 victory over England last time out retains his place, back-rower James Davies, while there are Test debuts for Cardiff Blues wing Owen Lane and Saracens prop Rhys Carre.

Back-rower Josh Navidi captains Wales for the first time while regional team-mate Jarrod Evans starts at fly-half. 

It is the final chance to impress coach Gatland before he names his 31-man World Cup squad on Sunday.

"It is a great opportunity for Rhys and Owen, they have worked hard all summer to get to this point so it will be good for them to get their first international caps and put their hands up for RWC selection after the match," said Gatland.

"It was a bit of a shock to them when they first came in with regards to how hard we train but they've fitted in well.

"Rhys has lost about 10 kilograms since he's been with us! Owen Lane has continued to improve and impress.

For Josh, it's a huge honour to be named captain, he has been hugely consistent for us, he has really impressed in the last couple of seasons and he will lead from the front on Saturday and it is a great compliment for him to be awarded the captaincy.

Rhys Patchell has been named on the bench and Gatland says the Scarlets fly-half and Evans will get a half each to impress in the number 10 jersey as they look to take their place in Japan alongside Dan Biggar.

Gatland added: "Saturday is a really big game for the players and I'm really excited about the challenge for this Welsh team. 

"There is so much at stake in terms of World Cup selection with a number of positions still up for grabs - it will be a huge game."

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