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Warren Gatland Picks His 33 As 10th-Ranked Wales Bid for Last Eight Of World Cup

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By David Williams

So, Wales have announced their World Cup squad – one that coach Warren Gatland reckons “will do something special” in France next month.

They go there ranked 10th in the world, meaning just getting out of their pool would exceed expectations.

At present, Australia are the eighth best team in the world and Fiji are ranked ninth.

That makes Wales the third best team in Pool C, according to World Rugby, although you would be hard-pressed to find a bookmaker that puts Fiji ahead of Wales in the betting.

Not that Gatland sounded worried about those statistics when he named his 33-man squad on Monday afternoon.

“It’s one step at a time,” said Gatland. “It’s about getting out of your pool first and then see where you are.

“You don’t look too far ahead. I think every team is focusing on that. Get out of your pool and take it one step at a time.”

Jac Morgan and Dewi Lake have been named as co-captains, while Gareth Anscombe and Taulupe Faletau have both earned the faith of Gatland despite recent injuries.

Anscombe is recovering from a thumb injury but has claimed a place as one of three outside-halves alongside Dan Biggar and Sam Costelow.

Faletau is the only specialist No.8 in the squad, although both Aaron Wainwright and Tommy Reffell can also provide cover.

Anscombe and Faletau are the only members of the party who have not featured in any of the three warm-up games.

But there is no place for scrum-half Kieran Hardy, with head coach Gatland deciding to select just two nines in Tomos Williams and Gareth Davies.

“There have been some close final decisions in the last 36 hours,” said Gatland.

“But we can only take 33 players and those we have selected we think offer a good combination in terms of talent and experience.

“We have a few more training sessions here in Wales before we depart for France on September 3 and we cannot wait to get out there and get started in this tournament. We look forward to what lies ahead for this group.

Gatland named his squad on Monday on the back of a chastening 52-16 thumping by the South African Springboks.

South Africa’s victory – the first time Wales have conceded 50 points under Gatland – comfortably eclipsed their previous biggest win in Cardiff – a 34-12 in 2007.

Ospreys forwards Morgan and Lake will lead a squad that includes recent international newcomers in wing Rio Dyer, centre Mason Grady and prop Corey Domachowski.
Gatland has chosen a split of 14 backs and 19 forwards for the tournament, with Fiji looming as opening opponents in Bordeaux on September 10.

Gatland has named Lake, who is currently recovering from a knee injury, and his fellow hooker Ryan Elias (hamstring), plus lock Dafydd Jenkins (knee), who at 20 is the squad’s youngest player.

Centre George North, meanwhile, will head to his fourth World Cup, putting himself in illustrious company alongside the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Brian O’Driscoll, Dan Carter and Richie McCaw.

North and his midfield colleague Grady can also provide wing cover, with Gatland opting for five back-three players – Liam Williams, Leigh Halfpenny, Louis Rees-Zammit, Josh Adams and Dyer.

Also heading to France are Scarlets centre Johnny Williams, who watched the last World Cup four years ago from a hospital bed while he was treated for testicular cancer, Scarlets fly-half Sam Costelow and former England prop Henry Thomas.

Costelow will provide the cover for a third scrum-half, even though the Scarlets No.10 has only played in the position as cover during matches and not as a starter.

Other players from Gatland’s training group who did not make the final squad include Ospreys wing Alex Cuthbert, Gloucester centre Max Llewellyn, Cardiff prop Keiron Assiratti, Ospreys lock Rhys Davies and Scarlets back-row forward Taine Plumtree.

Gatland said: “The toughest part of the job is always selection and this is particularly the case when it comes to picking a Rugby World Cup squad.

“Over the past three months the whole group of 48 players in the wider training squad have been outstanding in terms of attitude and effort, so having to reduce the squad down to the final 33 has been really hard.

“This will be a very proud moment for these players, their families and friends and I would like to congratulate them all on the achievement.”


Wales senior men’s squad for Rugby World Cup 2023 in France
(Player | first club | club | Wales caps | previous RWC)


Taine Basham – Talywain | Dragons (13 caps)
Adam Beard – Birchgrove | Ospreys (47 caps) (2019 RWC)
Elliot Dee – Newbridge | Dragons | (43 caps) (2019 RWC)
Corey Domachowski – Gilfach Goch | Cardiff Rugby (2 caps)
Ryan Elias – Carmarthen Athletic | Scarlets (34 caps) (2019 RWC)
Taulupe Faletau – RTB Ebbw Vale | Cardiff Rugby | (100 caps) (2011 RWC)
Tomas Francis – Malton & Norton | Provence | (72 caps) (2015 & 2019 RWC)
Dafydd Jenkins – Porthcawl | Exeter Chiefs (7 caps)
Dewi Lake – Valley Ravens | Ospreys (9 caps)
Dillon Lewis – Beddau | Harlequins (51 caps) (2019 RWC)
Dan Lydiate – Rhayader | Dragons (71 caps) (2011 & 2015 RWC)
Jac Morgan – Cwmtwrch | Ospreys (11 caps)
Tommy Reffell – Pencoed | Leicester Tigers (10 caps)
Will Rowlands – Dragons (25 caps)
Nicky Smith – Waunarlwydd | Ospreys (44 caps) (2019 RWC)
Gareth Thomas – Newcastle Emlyn | Ospreys (22 caps)
Henry Thomas – Bath minis & juniors | Montpellier (2 caps)
Christ Tshiunza – Rhiwbina Squirrels | Exeter Chiefs (7 caps)
Aaron Wainwright – Whiteheads | Dragons (39 caps) (2019 RWC)


Josh Adams – Hendy | Cardiff Rugby (50 Caps) (2019 RWC)
Gareth Anscombe – Ponsonby | Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath (35 caps) (2015 RWC)
Dan Biggar – Gorseinon | Toulon (109 Caps) (2015 & 2019 RWC)
Sam Costelow – Pencoed | Scarlets (4 caps)
Gareth Davies – Newcastle Emlyn | Scarlets (69 Caps) (2015 & 2019 RWC)
Rio Dyer – Risca | Dragons (9 caps)
Mason Grady – Barry | Cardiff Rugby (4 caps)
Leigh Halfpenny – Gorseinon | unattached (100 Caps) (2011 & 2019 RWC)
George North – Llangefni | Ospreys (114 Caps) (2011, 2015 & 2019 RWC)
Louis Rees-Zammit – Rumney | Gloucester Rugby (27 caps)
Nick Tompkins – Old Elthamians | Saracens (28 caps)
Johnny Williams – Rams | Scarlets (6 caps)
Liam Williams – Waunarlwydd | Penlan | Kubota Spears (85 Caps) (2015 & 2019 RWC)
Tomos Williams – Treorchy | Cardiff Rugby (48 Caps) (2019 RWC)


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