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Why It Should Be No Sleep Till Oita For Wales At The World Cup

With a week still to go until Wales play Fiji at the World Cup, Warren Gatland must decide whether or not to rest some of the A-listers who triumphed against Australia. Robin Davey insists the more sensible day off for them would be against Uruguay in the final pool match.

Forget talk of Wales making a crop of changes for their next World Cup challenge when they take on Fiji in Oita.

For win that, achieve a bonus point to boot – with minnows Uruguay to follow – and Wales will surely qualify for the quarter-finals as group winners.

There can be no slip-up against the Fijians, reminiscent of the calamity in Nantes in the 2007 tournament, and for that reason Wales ought to go in fully loaded next Wednesday.

There has been talk of giving other members of the squad an opportunity, but worthy though most of the challengers are, and with due respect to Uruguay, that possibility ought to be deferred until the last pool match.

It has been suggested, for example, that half-backs Tomos Williams and Rhys Patchell, both admittedly outstanding when they went on as replacements in the momentous victory over Australia, should perhaps start against the Fijians.

And maybe give Leigh Halfpenny a place, the same applying to Owen Watkin, while among the forwards it has been mooted that Adam Beard and Ross Moriarty should be drafted in with Jake Ball and Josh Navidi taking a break.

But the players who gave so much to the cause against Australia hardly need a longer rest, for there’s a 10-day gap between matches. They have been given three days off, anyway, and the adrenalin will be pumping after that great victory over the Aussies.

Wales can’t, and surely won’t, fail against the Fijians again, not with captain marvel Alun Wyn Jones at the helm and that inspirational pair of coaches Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards urging and cajoling them on.

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Apart from the satisfaction of topping their pool, two more victories would give Wales an easier route through the knockout stages and, most of all, avoid the All Blacks who remain the favourites, and probably England too.

France are now the lost likely quarter-final opponents, although Argentina cannot be written off just yet.

Come through either of those and it could well pit Wales against South Africa and while the Springboks have improved after some lean years, and gave the All Blacks a few early frights in their opener, Wales have gained the upper hand against them in recent encounters.

So, assuming the likes of Liam Williams, Hadleigh Parkes, Dan Biggar and Jake Ball, who have had various bumps and bruises, are fully fit then Gatland ought to go with same again.

Having said that how comforting it was to see a player like Patchell step up to the plate so magnificently when called upon.

Biggar, now recovering after failing an HIA when going off against Australia, was the first to congratulate Patchell after the faultless way he slotted the all-important kicks to come away with an impressive 14-point haul.

But I would still start with Biggar against Fiji. He is first choice after all, then in all probability bring Patchell on after an hour or so.

Much the same can be said for the other replacements with Watkin, Tomos Williams and all the other forwards on the bench, though with one exception.

Beard has now fully recovered from the appendix operation which delayed his arrival in Japan and should really be on the bench as a lock specialist after Aaron Shingler slotted in, admittedly pretty well, against Australia.

It would be hard on him to miss out on a place in the 23, as it would be for those who would again have to be content with a place among the replacements.

But this is the World Cup, there is no place for sentiment. Wales should start with the same XV, bring the replacements on in the second-half, then give others a chance against Uruguay.

Onwards and upwards!

 

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