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Taulupe Faletau Has Caught Up The Rest And Will Be Ready For Wales, Says Warren Gatland

By David Williams

Taulupe Faletau has bridged a big fitness gap to put himself in contention for Wales’ World Cup opener, according to coach Warren Gatland.

“He (Faletau) has been taking a full part in training for the past three weeks,” said Gatland ahead of the crunch tie against Fiji in Bordeaux on Sunday..

“There is no doubt in the first week he was blowing pretty hard in terms of some of the set-piece stuff the boys have been doing for a number of weeks.

“That has taken a little bit of time, but we’ve kept a close eye on his GPS figures and they have been excellent for him.

Co-captain Dewi Lake and number eight Faletau were among a handful of players who nursed injuries during Wales’ World Cup warm-up Tests.

Faletau played no part in those fixtures due to a calf muscle problem, while hooker Lake went off after suffering a knee injury during Wales’ defeat against England at Twickenham.

Ryan Elias, Dafydd Jenkins and Gareth Anscombe have also recovered to be available for Sunday’s Pool C clash.

“The last couple of weeks we’ve had a few niggles – we had eight or 10 players not taking a full part in training,” Gatland said.

“Nothing serious, but just a few bumps. They’ve all been rehabbed and everyone is now fit, which is a positive place for us to be in.

“Even though he hasn’t been running around, he has done a lot of off-feet conditioning. Some of the work on the side of the pitch is harder than being on the pitch, and he is definitely in contention for the weekend.”

Lake departed during the first half at Twickenham, and the hooker added: “It always plays on your mind when you come off injured 20 minutes into a game.

“I am very grateful to be sat here, to the medical staff who got me through the three weeks at home and the coaching staff for selecting me post-injury.

“A lot of hard work has gone on behind the scenes to get me ready for this weekend.”

Wales trained amid temperatures of more than 30 degrees on Tuesday, while the forecast for Sunday’s encounter is for 28 degrees at kick-off, even though the game does not start until 9pm local time.

It is understood that World Cup organisers are considering water breaks during the opening round of pool fixtures.

“We would like the ball on the park as often as we could. We think we’re in pretty good shape physically,” Gatland said.

“In terms of that, we are not going to push back on water breaks if that’s what is decided. We won’t be arguing with World Rugby on that decision.”

It will be a fifth successive World Cup for Wales and Fiji to meet in the pool stage, and Sunday’s victors will take a significant step towards the quarter-finals.

Fiji are fresh from an outstanding away victory over England, and they are fancied by many to defeat a Wales side with just three wins from 13 Tests.

“I thought they were excellent at Twickenham,” Gatland added. “They have got some great athletes, we are aware of that.

“They are a lot more structured now as a team than they would traditionally have been in the past.

“We’ve got to impose our game on them as well. We know they are a good side at the moment, and a lot of their side play in Super Rugby and in France as well. It’s going to be an exciting challenge.

“They have always had incredibly world-class individual athletes who could open up a game. But bringing that organisation and structure makes them more dangerous.

“I think from a coaching perspective, the ultimate pinnacle is the World Cup. It’s the one time in international windows that you get full preparation.

“It feels like you’re working with a club side in having a pre-season. We’ve been able to work on a lot of things in the last few months in terms of the detail and putting together a strategy.”

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