Dan Biggar of Wales. Pic: Simon King/Replay Images.

Dan Biggar Insists The All Blacks Should Be World Cup Favourites . . . Whatever The Rankings Might Finally Say

Dan Biggar insists Wales can go “deep into the tournament” at the World Cup once they get past their final warm-up match against Ireland on Saturday.

The Wales fly-half will begin with a watching brief in Dublin as Rhys Patchell starts in the No.10 shirt and Biggar begins on the bench.

The roles are likely to be reversed once Wales get to Japan, where the Northampton player, who was instrumental as a finisher in the Six Nations is poised to be the starter following the injury suffered by Gareth Anscombe.

Biggar insists it makes little difference how the global rugby rankings shake down before the World Cup starts as Wales, Ireland and England all concern themselves with final preparations on the field this weekend.

The southern hemisphere big guns, he says, are not convinced by the European surge, or by recent results that have juggled the pecking order.

“I think we have a stronger depth than four years ago,” says Biggar.

“It’s a great squad on paper, but it’s about fronting up and delivering. England, Australia and New Zealand will not be worried by our recent record. It’s about the here and now.

“Firstly, we know we have to play extremely well to get out of our pool. But after that, we think we can go deep into the tournament.

“New Zealand should be clear favourites as they have won the last two tournaments.

“South Africa will be right up there and I expect England to be very tough to beat as well.

“But it’s very open. There’s no teams we fear, but lots that we respect.”

Warren Gatland has urged his players to make sure they “hit the ground running” in Japan by getting up to speed against the Irish.

The head coach says it is important that Wales are “rugby-ready” as they move towards their World Cup opener against Georgia.

Wales complete a busy tournament warm-up schedule by tackling Ireland on Saturday, hoping to avoid back-to-back defeats against Joe Schmidt’s team.

Gatland will parade many of his big names, including five British and Irish Lions Test players.

Rhys Patchell. Pic: Getty Images.

There are eight survivors from the starting XV that secured Six Nations title and Grand Slam success by beating Ireland in Cardiff just over five months ago.

And 15 changes following last weekend’s home defeat include a start for Scarlets fly-half Patchell.

Patchell apart, the team features captain Alun Wyn Jones, wing George North, centre Jonathan Davies and openside flanker Justin Tipuric.

There are also opportunities in Dublin, meanwhile, for scrum-half Tomos Williams, prop Wyn Jones and hooker Elliot Dee.

Patchell endured an injury-hit campaign last season, suffering from concussion issues and then a hamstring problem, and he has not made a Test start for almost 15 months.

Those setbacks stalled his international hopes, but he delivered an impressive try-scoring display off the bench five days ago.

And that performance helped him nudge out Jarrod Evans for a place in Gatland’s 31-man World Cup squad.

The eight players in Gatland’s squad not involved this weekend are Hallam Amos, Owen Watkin, Aled Davies, Rhys Carre, Ryan Elias, Cory Hill, Aaron Shingler and James Davies.

Wales kick off their World Cup campaign against Georgia in Toyota City, Japan, on September 23, which is followed by a potentially-pivotal Pool D appointment with Australia in Tokyo six days later.

Johnny Sexton has been selected at fly-half for Ireland. The 34-year-old has not played for his Test side since the Six Nations with Joe Schmidt keen to preserve his key playmaker ahead of the World Cup.

Saturday’s game will be a home farewell for Schmidt, who is retiring from coaching after the World Cup, and captain Rory Best, who wins his 120th cap and has also announced his intention to retire after the tournament.

Ireland: Kearney; Larmour, Henshaw, Aki, Earls; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best (capt), Furlong, Ryan, Kleyn, Stander, van der Flier, Conan.

Replacements: Cronin, Kilcoyne, Porter, Henderson, Ruddock, McGrath, Carty, Ringrose.

WALES: Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets); George North (Ospreys), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets), Josh Adams (Cardiff Blues); Rhys Patchell (Scarlets), Tomos Williams (Cardiff Blues); Wyn Jones (Scarlets), Elliot Dee (Dragons), Tomas Francis (Exeter); Jake Ball (Scarlets), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, capt); Aaron Wainwright (Dragons), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Ross Moriarty (Dragons).

Replacements: Ken Owens (Scarlets), Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Blues), Adam Beard (Ospreys), Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues), Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints), Liam Williams (Saracens).

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