Wales’ World Cup team traveled by train from Paris to Bordeaux yesterday and welcomed number 8 Taulupe Faletau back into their squad after “15 weeks of hell”.
Warren Gatland’s men face Fiji in their Group C opener here on Sunday. They hope their game against the Pacific Islanders goes as smoothly as their TGV journey through France.
The reality is that this is unlikely to be the case, although head coach Gatland has been able to mark the arrival in Bordeaux by naming a strong squad. Co-captain Dewi Lake will not feature against Fiji due to a lack of training time, but Faletau is back after missing Wales’ warm-up games with a calf problem.
Flanker Jac Morgan will captain the side while Lake is not in the 23rd squad. Gareth Davies, Nick Tompkins and Aaron Wainwright are other notable starting players.
“The medical team have done a fantastic job getting Dewi back to full fitness,” said Gatland.
Wales have welcomed Taulupe Faletau back to their squad for their World Cup opener against Fiji
Gatland has named his team after his side completed a grueling schedule this summer
“Since he got a knock on his knee (against England) he hasn’t trained as much as the other hookers, so Ryan Elias and Elliot Dee will be picked for this game.”
After strenuous training camps in Wales, Switzerland and Turkey, Gatland’s men are now ready to play.
“We’ve had 15 hellish weeks,” said prop Corey Domachowski, who is one of 10 players set to play against Fiji.
“It was absolutely brutal. “I really believe that if we take what we’ve achieved on the training pitch and carry it over to the pitch, we’ll be a tough team to beat.
“We won’t worry about any resistance.” “We know we have quality in the squad.”
Wales certainly does. And after a miserable season marked by chaos off the pitch, Gatland’s camp is happy again.
“The team has worked incredibly hard over the last few months and has prepared well for Fiji over the last few weeks,” said Gatland.
“Fiji are a good team with some great individual athletes and they are playing in a much more structured way now than perhaps they have traditionally.”
“We had a clear idea of what we wanted to achieve and how we wanted to play on the weekend.” It will be an exciting competition on Sunday that we will really enjoy.
“The boys look sharp. This group has a great environment where players work for each other and enjoy each other’s company.
“We are in a good position and can’t wait to get our World Cup campaign started.”
Scrum-half Davies has played a role in Wales’ last 12 World Cup games in the 2015 and 2019 competitions and will start in Bordeaux with Tomos Williams on the bench.
Davies fell out of favor with the Welsh when the team was under the management of Wayne Pivac and admitted he felt he had to change his game, which led to him losing his love of rugby.
“Twelve months ago I probably wouldn’t have thought I would be playing in the first game of a World Cup, but as we all know, anything can happen in rugby,” said the No.9.
“I have worked extremely hard over the last year to get myself into the competition and I hope I can show that on Sunday.”
The Welsh squad for Fiji has a nice mix of youth and experience. In addition to newcomers such as captain Morgan and his nine fellow World Cup debutants, Gatland can draw on experience from players such as Faletau, fly-half Dan Biggar, center George North and full-back Liam Williams.
George North is expected to take part in its 17th World Cup in its fourth tournament
Flanker Jac Morgan will captain the side while Dewi Lake isn’t quite ready to return to action just yet
North partners Tompkins in midfield and will be making its 17th World Cup appearance in its fourth tournament. The Welsh back three look dangerous and consist of Liam Williams, Louis Rees-Zammit and Josh Adams.
Biggar needs just three points against Fiji to reach 100 points at World Cups. “We’re not too worried about being favorites or underdogs.” “Fiji are playing well and are above us in the rankings,” said Wales coach Neil Jenkins.
“They are a good team who won at Twickenham a few weeks ago and gave France a difficult time beforehand. “We are under no illusions. We have to do it on Sunday evening.
“You want to have the best possible start.”
Fiji will name their team for Wales on Friday after being without key fly-half Caleb Muntz throughout the tournament earlier this week due to a knee injury sustained in training.
Wales face Fiji (kick-off on Sunday, 8pm, Bordeaux): Liam Williams; Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Nick Tompkins, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Gareth Thomas, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Will Rowlands, Adam Beard, Aaron Wainwright, Jac Morgan (lead), Taulupe Faletau
Substitute: Elliot Dee, Corey Domachowski, Dillon Lewis, Dafydd Jenkins, Tommy Reffell, Tomos Williams, Sam Costelow, Rio Dyer