Head Coach Warren Gatland of Wales. Pic: Simon King/Replay Images.

Warren Gatland Goes Heavy Duty For World Cup

Rob Evans and Samson Lee have missed out on World Cup selection because coach Warren Gatland wanted “durable” props for Japan.

The experienced front row pair were the big surprises when Gatland named his 31 players for Japan on Sunday afternoon as Rhys Carre and Dillon Lewis were picked ahead of them.

Scott Williams was also left out, but the centre was always a long shot because of a recent back injury, while the experience of Rhys Patchell gave him the edge over Jarod Evans.

Second row Cory Hill has been named in the squad despite suffering from a leg fracture.

Dragons lock Hill, who captained his country in two Tests against Argentina last year, could be unavailable until halfway through Wales’ pool schedule. He has not played since February.

“When we decided to go with the five props, one of the big discussion points was how durable the props were,” said Gatland.

“Rob hasn’t trained a lot in the lead-up to the World Cup matches. He came in with a shoulder injury, then he picked up a neck injury and a few back issues, so he hadn’t played a lot.

“Samson has missed a few campaigns through injury, had a hamstring issue during the campaign.

“Someone like Rhys Carre has made incredible progress. He’s dropped 10kgs, I thought he did well yesterday ( against Ireland) and he’s a big man.

“Apart from one day, when he found it tough when his calves were tight, he hasn’t missed a training session, hasn’t been in the physio room.

“Given the other props are also pretty durable in terms of Tomas and Dillon,that was some of the consideration that we had particularly when we decided to go with the five props.”

Rob Evans of Wales. Pic: Simon King/Replay Images.

Gatland has opted for a split of 13 backs and 18 forwards, which includes three centres, two fly-halves and five props.

Other players to miss out include Owen Lane, Jonah Holmes and Bradley Davies.

Explaining his decision to go with Patchell as the back-up outside-half to Dan Biggar, rather than Evans, Gatland said:  “I thought Rhys came on and gave a pretty solid performance in the second half.

“It was tough for Jarrod in that first half and that was probably the decision on yesterday’s performance.

“Jarrod is an incredibly talented young player and I’m sure his time will come sometime in the future.

“I thought Rhys controlled the game nicely when he came on, scored a good try and kicked his goals. He has had experience.

“For us, with Rhys, the whole time he’s been with us it’s been about rebuilding his confidence.

“He came in not being picked for the Scarlets, being on the bench and not having a lot of rugby, so we wanted to bring him along slowly, giving him the confidence and belief he can perform at this level.”
Gatland and his coaches applied the final selection touches during a three-hour meeting on Saturday night, with around half a dozen places believed to be at the centre of their debate.

Squad members learnt of selection via a video produced by the Welsh Rugby Union when each player was told by a member of their community club that they had been chosen.

It will be lock Alun Wyn Jones’ fourth World Cup, with wing George North and hooker Ken Owens featuring in the tournament for a third time.

There are call-ups for Saracens prop Carre, who made his Test debut against Ireland, and Scarlets flanker James Davies.

Wales’ opening World Cup game is against Georgia in Toyota City on September 23, followed by Australia in Tokyo six days later.

The tournament will be Gatland’s farewell from a role he has filled since 2008, during which time Wales have won four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and reached a World Cup semi-final.

The squad contains a combined cap total of 1,064.

Gatland said: “Selection is always the toughest part of the job and that is especially true come World Cup time.

“Reducing the squad down to 31 has been extremely hard especially when you look at the depth we have created and the amount of work the training squad have put in – for some, 14 weeks of training.

“We are really happy with the final 31, we feel there is an excellent blend to the squad, in terms of talent, experience and age profile and we are all incredibly excited about heading to Japan and what lies ahead.

“These players have performed and delivered for Wales and deserve the opportunity to represent their nation at the game’s showpiece tournament.”

Wales World Cup squad

Forwards

Props: Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Wyn Jones (Scarlets), Rhys Carre (Saracens), Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs), Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Blues).

Hookers: Ken Owens (Scarlets), Elliot Dee (Dragons), Ryan Elias (Scarlets).

Second-rows: Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, capt), Adam Beard (Ospreys), Cory Hill (Dragons), Jake Ball (Scarlets).

Back-rowers: Aaron Shingler (Scarlets), Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues), Ross Moriarty (Dragons), Aaron Wainwright (Dragons), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), James Davies (Scarlets).

Backs

Scrum-halves: Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Tomos Williams (Cardiff Blues), Aled Davies (Ospreys).

Fly-halves: Dan Biggar (Northampton), Rhys Patchell (Scarlets).

Centres: Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Owen Watkin (Ospreys).

Back three: Liam Williams (Saracens), Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets), George North (Ospreys), Hallam Amos (Cardiff Blues), Josh Adams (Cardiff Blues.

 

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