Dan Biggar of Wales. Pic: Simon King/Replay Images.

Wales Have More Depth Than Before . . . But Not Enough To Drown Dan Biggar

The opening warm-up game for Wales, ahead of the World Cup, could hardly have gone much worse. Now, comes the second and Robin Davey says much can be done to swerve avoidable injuries as well as avoidable defeat.

No panic yet, but slip up again on Saturday and the alarm bells may start ringing in the background as Wales head towards the World Cup.

Wales were surprisingly lethargic first time up against England at Twickenham last Sunday in their initial warm-up game, making more mistakes in one outing than they would normally make in half-a-dozen.

Missed touches, falling off tackles, a sloppy line-out – you name it, Wales committed one howler after another. And all after spending many weeks in camp, including one demanding visit to the Swiss base that has stood them in such good stead in the past.

Okay, it was their first shot as the countdown to next month’s tournament in Japan really gets underway and it was at Twickenham, so often their graveyard in the past.

But so lacklustre, making so many mistakes. How come? Even coach Warren Gatland admitted he was puzzled at the way Wales performed – or rather, didn’t.

There can’t be the same outcome in the return clash between the old enemies. Wales can’t make the same mistakes again or those sirens will start to wail.

One set-back in west London is perhaps not such a big deal. But Wales can’t possibly accept another defeat, second time around and believe it has no influence on either their own self-belief or how they are viewed by other countries.

This time it will be at the Principality Stadium with a full house in attendance, normally worth a few points’ start.

Wales will also have to shrug off the psychological damage done by the loss of a second key player.

Gareth Anscombe of Wales. Pic: Simon King/Replay Images.

As if being without outstanding No.8 Taulupe Faletau after a series of arm and shoulder injuries isn’t bad enough, they will now be without outside-half Gareth Anscombe.

He had made a tricky start in the Welsh jersey- and was not the nation’s favourite player – but he gradually blossomed, became a regular in last season’s Six Nations, and, ultimately, guided Wales to their Grand Slam triumph against Ireland.

But he was sadly ruled out of the rest of the World Cup warm-ups and the entire tournament after being helped off at Twickenham – a scan confirming he had damaged knee ligaments.

Gatland has undoubtedly grown the squad during his time at the helm, but the depth can’t compare with England’s.

Gatland’s counterpart Eddie Jones named his World Cup squad as early as Monday and he decided to discard the old guard and go for a whole series of bolters.

He totally refreshed his squad by naming no fewer than six players with less than half-a-dozen caps.

Winger Ruaridh McConnochie is uncapped, flanker Lewis Ludlam, hooker Jack Singleton and scrum-half Willi Heinz were capped for the first time against Wales last Sunday, while winger Joe Cokanasiga and centre Piers Francis have a mere five caps under their belt.

Gatland names his team for the England return tomorrow and he faces a real dilemma as he finalises his 23.

Does he go fully loaded again and risk more injuries to leading players, or does he give others an opportunity?

Surely, he can’t risk Dan Biggar now that he is clearly number one outside-half again after the loss of Anscombe. An injury to the experienced No.10 really would be disastrous.

So, Gatland will have to choose between Rhys Patchell, who had already made his mark only to suffer injuries, notably several bouts of concussion, or the relatively untried Jarrod Evans.

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Similarly, Ross Moriarty is the only real No.8 in the squad after the loss of Faletau. He is one of the more physical players around and is pretty durable, but Gatland can’t afford another injury there.

Josh Navidi is an option but he is not a specialist No.8 so it could develop into a real problem for Wales going into the World Cup.

And at scrum-half, while Gareth Davies scored a brilliant solo try he can be on the slow side getting the ball away, leaving him prone to interception and charge down.

Deputy Tomos Williams is another player who has been on the injured list, but if he has proved his fitness this week then he would be worth a chance.

The same applies to lock Cory Hill who had pretty much established himself in the team only to suffer an ankle injury.

If he’s fit he will surely return and Dragons teammate Elliot Dee may be given a start at hooker with Ken Owens rested.

Skipper Alun Wyn Jones will presumably be used sparingly in the pre-World Cup matches now, while George North could make way for Leigh Halfpenny, who is fully fit again.

Whatever line-up Gatland comes up with, Wales will need to avenge Sunday’s defeat.

Of course, it’s what happens in Japan in September and October that really counts.

But Wales still can’t afford what would be a damaging second successive defeat on Saturday.


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