By David Williams
Louis Rees-Zammit is firmly in the frame to emulate his Wales colleague Josh Adams as top try-scorer at a Rugby World Cup.
But Gloucester wing Rees-Zammit says that team success is the “end goal” as Wales build towards a World Cup quarter-final against Argentina in Marseille next Saturday.
Rees-Zammit’s hat-trick during the 43-19 Pool C victory over Georgia took him to five in the tournament, one behind France star Damian Penaud.
Adams, meanwhile, led the way in Japan four years ago, claiming seven tries and finishing one short of equalling the record for most touchdowns during one World Cup that is jointly held by Jonah Lomu, Bryan Habana and Julian Savea.
Rees-Zammit became the seventh Welshman to score three tries in a World Cup game after Adams, Glen Webbe, Ieuan Evans, Gareth Thomas, Scott Williams and Cory Allen.
— BBC ScrumV (@BBCScrumV) October 7, 2023
It was another exhibition of the 22-year-old’s dazzling finishing skills and why he is among the biggest box-office attractions in world rugby.
“It (World Cup leading try-scorer) is something that is in the back of my head, but getting the wins is all that matters,” he said.
“I would love to be top try-scorer. As long as we win all the matches, that is the end goal. I am buzzing with the result – we are building nice momentum going into the quarter-finals.
“I am definitely a quicker player now. I am a lot fitter as well, which means I can repeat these things.
“I know Gats (Wales head coach Warren Gatland) has spoken about my training schedule.
“I haven’t missed training for a couple of months now, which is great. I am buzzing with the way I am playing at the minute – I am trying to do everything I can to help the team.”
Louis Rees-Zammit makes young French boy's day after World Cup heroics https://t.co/oStzjvcTOk
— ITV Wales News (@ITVWales) October 8, 2023
Wales assistant coach and attack specialist Alex King fully acknowledges Rees-Zammit’s value ahead of a fourth successive World Cup quarter-final appearance.
Rees-Zammit was the only Wales back to start all four group games and he scored tries in three of those against Fiji, Portugal and Georgia.
King said: “We are lucky to have a player like Louis. It’s great for rugby to have these kind of stars with finishing power like that.
“He is a fantastic athlete, he is quick and his game has really come on in the last 12 months.
“It’s his mindset, his attitude, his professionalism, everything you need to be a top player.
“He is still very young, he has got 30-odd caps for Wales, he has been on a British and Irish Lions tour and he just wants to get better and better.
“We want to get the ball to Louis, but it is not as simple as just giving him the ball. Defences are very good.
“His attitude has been first class. He wants to get better and better every day he turns up to work. He was great (against Georgia) and I am looking forward to Marseille next week.”
It's been a consistent issue throughout the Rugby World Cup and many Wales fans took to social media to complain about the playing of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau before the match against Georgiahttps://t.co/ffRxLQMa7T
— David Owens (@asoundreaction) October 7, 2023
Scarlets scrum-half Kieran Hardy has been called into Wales’ World Cup squad.
Number eight Taulupe Faletau was ruled out of the remainder of the tournament after suffering a broken arm during Wales’ victory over Georgia on Saturday.
But Wales feel they have enough existing back-row options to cover Faletau’s absence and Hardy, who will join the squad in Versailles on Sunday night, will increase scrum-half resources alongside Gareth Davies and Tomos Williams.
Wales head coach Warren Gatland said: “We feel we have a number of options in the back row at the moment, so we’ve decided to call up Kieran to give us extra cover at scrum-half and to take some pressure off from a training perspective.”
Hardy was left out of Wales’ initial World Cup squad after Gatland opted to select only two scrum-halves in Davies and Williams.
🏴 Group campaign completed with 19 points out of a possible 20 in the bag.
🇦🇷 Now it’s Argentina in the quarter-finals, as Wales assess the cost of their victory over Georgia.
🏉 Much to chew over here, including a big call at No 6.https://t.co/ZvpiiPgPEK
— Simon Thomas Rugby (@simonrug) October 8, 2023
Wales assistant coach Jonathan Humphreys admits Wales’ mood after topping their World Cup group with an unbeaten record has been tempered by injuries to Faletau and Gareth Anscombe.
Fly-half Anscombe withdrew 45 minutes before kick-off against Georgia in Nantes due to a groin injury.
In terms of replacing Faletau against quarter-final opponents Argentina next Saturday, Aaron Wainwright is likely to switch across the back-row from blindside flanker.
Full-back Liam Williams was on crutches after the Georgia game following a blow to his knee but, while he could miss training in the early part of this week, Wales are hopeful about his quarter-final prospects.
🗣️ "It's a big loss for us"
— BBC ScrumV (@BBCScrumV) October 7, 2023
“It is a big loss, he is a true world-class player,” Wales forwards specialist Humphreys said of Faletau.
“He is great around the place, but in a tournament these things happen and we have been very lucky in terms of the amount of injuries that we’ve had.
“But it still doesn’t detract from the loss of him. We will have a look over the next 24-48 hours (about a replacement) and make a decision then.
“You can’t replace what Toby (Faletau) gives, in terms of his intelligence and what he does, how he always turns up at the right place and makes the right decision at the right time.
“There is a huge onus now on everybody else to bring more.
“We are delighted that we topped the group, but then when you have close members of the squad who have been injured you are clearly down about that. It affects the mood.
“It is a tough one for Toby, but hopefully Gareth won’t be too long. He felt something in the warm-up and (we) made the decision not to play him. We will know over the next 36 hours what his chances are.”
If Wainwright moves positions, the vacancy at blindside flanker could mean a recall for seasoned campaigner Dan Lydiate, while Exeter’s Christ Tshiunza is also an option, along with switching captain Jac Morgan from openside and handing Tommy Reffell the number seven shirt.
Scarlets scrum-half Kieran Hardy has replaced injured number eight Taulupe Faletau in Wales' World Cup squad 🏉
— BBC ScrumV (@BBCScrumV) October 8, 2023