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Wales Hooker Ryan Elias Plans Major Strike Against The Head When England Come Calling

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By Graham Thomas

Ryan Elias intends to strike against England next Saturday, even though he was nowhere near his Wales comrades when they almost downed boots in the Six Nations.

The Scarlets hooker was absent from any picket line with an Achilles injury back in February, when angry Welsh dragons nearly scorched the fixture in a dispute over delayed contracts.

In the end, the game went ahead and England won 20-10, but now the context is entirely different as both nations flex their muscles in a first World Cup warm-up.

“There has been a huge amount going on in Wales and England with players out of contract and clubs going under, but from a player’s perspective you just want to do your job, which is to play rugby,” said Elias.

“That last game involved close friends of mine, so I was in contact with them during the build-up.

“You’d rather have meetings about rugby and so it didn’t sound as if they had the greatest prep for that game.

“Now, we just want to rip into it again. We are all solely focused on the rugby.”

Wales have lost huge experience with the international retirements of Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Rhys Webb, plus the injury that has ruled out 36-year-old hooker Ken Owens.

That has opened the door to Elias, 28, who has had to battle his rival for the shirt for both club and country.

“I’ve known Ken for years – we went to the same school, played for the same club and I have grown up with him.

“But I’ve got 33 caps and I feel I have a hell of a lot left to contribute. I feel the strongest I have ever been.

“England are going to be like us – fighting desperately for World Cup places, so I’d imagine it’s going to get pretty tasty.”

Elias already has 33 caps under his belt, but has the opportunity to establish himself as Wales’ top hooker with Owens now out of the picture through injury.

Not that he can take anything for granted with Dewi Lake, Elliot Dee and Sam Parry also in the running.

“There are three other very good hookers battling it out with myself in training every day for that spot. That’s why the two games against England and the one against the Springboks coming up are going to be so important,” said Elias.

“There will definitely be an edge this weekend – it’s a Wales England match. It doesn’t get much bigger than that for us as players and for the fans especially – it’s a huge occasion.

“Players in both teams will be fighting for spots at the World Cup, so I’d imagine it’s going to be pretty tasty.”

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Having spent 10 weeks together, the Welsh squad should definitely be in peak condition. Two weeks spent at altitude in Switzerland was the first test and then they have had a week in 40 degree heat in Turkey.

Those sessions have given Elias the perfect opportunity to put his Achilles to the test and now the battle is to convince Warren Gatland he has got what it takes to make an impact at the World Cup.

“I feel I’m in a good place at the minute, physically and mentally. I’ve been pushing hard, I feel confident, and I feel the strongest I’ve ever been,” admitted Elias.

“There are always going to be nerves and some degree of anxiety at this stage because the training sessions are so competitive. Everyone wants to get picked.

“We all want a chance to prove ourselves in these warm-up matches. We’ve been through two very tough training camps and now we just want to rip into the rugby.

“Even though it’s been a lot of hard work, it has been enjoyable. When your mind is telling you ‘no’, you just have to keep plodding on, just one foot in front of the other.

“And once the session is over, you can enjoy each other’s company, get back in the team room, have a game of cards, have a laugh, and then do it all again the day after.”

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