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Taine Plumtree Won’t Convince Ross Moriarty, But Wales Coaches Have Been Deeply Impressed

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By Paul Jones

Not everyone is a fan of Taine Plumtree’s rapid rise to a Wales starting spot, but Neil Jenkins – like Warren Gatland – prefers to stress the back row forward’s qualities as well as his perfect qualifications.

When Plumtree came on to win his first cap against England in Cardiff last weekend, Ross Moriarty was unimpressed.

“‘Must be a kick in the teeth to the back rowers who play in wales and moved back to wales to see lad who played 6 professional games get a cap for wales really takes the mick out of the passion for the badge” Moriarty posted in a reply to a picture of Wales’ new cap on Instagram.

Moriarty is now on the outside, looking in, having made himself unavailable for World Cup duty when he opted to play club rugby in France.

Now Plumtree, 23, is set to start for Wales against England at Twickenham on Saturday in the second of the World Cup warm-up matches.

He has “Scarlets” in brackets after his name on the team sheet, but the truth is he is yet to play for them, having only stepped off the plane from New Zealand when the squad were training in Switzerland.

But although his rugby education came in the southern hemisphere’s Super Rugby competition, the New Zealand-raised forward was born in Swansea during his father John’s four-year stint coaching the club.

He was eligible for the All Blacks, Wales, and the Springboks, as his mother was born in South Africa.

He made an impressive debut off the replacements’ bench last weekend and is already viewed as a player with an outstanding chance of making Gatland’s final 33-strong World Cup squad.

“He has been very good, he is a talent and an athlete,” Wales assistant coach Neil Jenkins said.

“He understands the game, and he played pretty well when he went on on Saturday. We will see if he gets another opportunity in the coming weeks, but he is a good asset to the squad as a player and a person.

“He said to most of the guys that he was pretty nervous before coming in out in Switzerland and not knowing anyone. He has certainly found his feet and he gets on with the guys.”

Aaron Wainwright wore the No.8 shirt in Wales’ warm-up opener, with Plumtree now to fill that role as Taulupe Faletau continues his recovery from a calf muscle injury.

Plumtree played only six times for the Blues in Auckland, including two appearances off the bench this season, in three years.

On Saturday he will have his chance to claim a place in the squad for the World Cup, a tournament England prop Ellis Genge believes is “wide open.”

Only four countries – New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and England – have won the competition across its nine previous stagings.

But if the current world rankings prove an accurate guide, then a new name could be engraved on the trophy this time around with Ireland currently topping that list and France holding third place.

“Someone spoke to me recently and said about Ireland, South Africa and Eddie (Jones) going back to Australia,” England prop Genge said.

“They didn’t even mention New Zealand, so it shows where people’s heads are at. New Zealand are still one of the best teams in the world.

“You have seen the upsets we’ve had in recent years, and I think it is wide open.

“I think any good team is very, very good at what they do. There is no magic potion.

“You have to be very good at what you set out to do, and that is what all the best teams in history have done.

“I think the key factor is finding your identity and being really good at that. It is about hanging your hat on something.”

While Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and Scotland all find themselves in the draw’s top half, England’s initial testing hurdles appear to be pool rivals Argentina – they meet in Marseille on September 9 – and potential quarter-final opponents Australia, Wales or Fiji if they reach the last-eight.

Genge is set to win his 50th cap at some point during England’s World Cup warm-up schedule.

Since the last tournament in Japan four years ago, when Genge made two appearances as a replacement, he has captained his country and established himself as England’s first-choice loosehead prop.

He is also among two World Cup vice-captains named by head coach Steve Borthwick, joining Courtney Lawes in understudying World Cup skipper Owen Farrell.

Asked how much he feels he has grown as a player since the last World Cup, Genge added: “I wouldn’t even pin it on growing as a player, to be honest. It’s more growing as a person.

“I’ve had two kids in that space of time. I’ve had some things go on with my family, so I moved back home (to Bristol).

“I am probably in a lot better spot psychologically, as opposed to looking at my performances on the pitch, which have obviously been bolstered by what has happened off it. They definitely coincide.

“It’s about that mentality of switching off, which I am quite good at, and then turning it back on when it counts.

“Switching off is very easy when you’ve got two young kids and a dog – a very big dog at that! That has really helped me as a person and the gym (Genge’s fitness business) is another avenue to take my mind off the game.

“Going into this World Cup, I am more of a senior player and I can’t wait to get involved. I really want to get going now.”

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