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Warren Gatland Set To Say Same Again (Again) For Fiji

Warren Gatland is poised to name an unchanged team for the third successive World Cup game when Wales face Fiji.

The Wales coach will announce his side on Monday and seems set to stick with the same starting line-up that beat Georgia and Australia.

Gatland will then make wholesale switches for Uruguay, when first starts of the competition can realistically be expected for players like Hallam Amos, Rhys Carre, Dillon Lewis, Bradley Davies and James Davies.

The same again message would be a vote of confidence in not just the players’ abilities after two opening victories in their pool, but a wholesale backing for their collective durability and powers of recovery in Japan.

Wales face Fiji in Oita on Wednesday, before meeting Uruguay in Kumamoto four days later.

Wales head of physical performance Paul Stridgeon, who has previously worked with England and the British and Irish Lions on the international stage, has no doubt where Wales’ current group of players stand in fitness terms.

“It’s the best-prepared squad I’ve worked with by far,” said Stridgeon.

“The game is so much more running-based now, the contacts are bigger and it takes the boys a lot longer to recover from the games.

“The fitness of the boys compared to four years ago, eight years ago… when I started in 2002, the game was totally different. You wouldn’t recognise it.

“Because of the laws of the game, I think players will stop getting much bigger. It’s much more of a running-based game. You don’t see massive 140kg props any more because of the amount of running.

“It will level out and players’ bodyweights will plateau. The game is getting faster all the time as players get fitter and faster, but I can’t see it going much further with the rules we have now.”

Lock Adam Beard is set to join full training this week as he continues his recovery from appendix surgery.

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The Ospreys forward had an operation in Cardiff on Wales’ tournament departure day more than three weeks ago.

Beard then flew to Japan ahead of the opening Pool D game against Georgia, linking up with the squad nine days after his colleagues arrived, and he appears to be on course for a potential playing return.

“Beardy had that operation, which was unfortunate, and then he lost three or four kilos,” added Stridgeon.

“He is a great kid who does everything we ask, as do all the players, so we’ve just been getting as much food into him as we can.

“He has been working hard, doing some extra weights sessions as well, and he has rehabbed well.

“He’s back into full training this week, so he has done well. He might be a couple of kilos down on what he was before, but that won’t affect him in the game.”

The Wales squad arrived in Beppu on Sunday, where they will prepare to meet Fiji, knowing that victory would secure a quarter-final place and potential clash against France.

And if they finish top of the group with an unbeaten record, it would be the first time for Wales to achieve that feat at a World Cup since 1987.

“The boys are in a good place,” Stridgeon added.

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“This 10-day turnaround (between the Austraiia and Fiji games) has allowed us a bit of time. The boys were a bit beaten up after the Australia game, so we had a couple of recovery days, then an optional session on day three, post-game.

“We worked really hard at the pre-World Cup camps, but we also train very intensively when we are together in a Test week.

“The coaching group allows us to get the strength and conditioning work in that we need.

“We don’t train for long periods, but we train intensively, and because the coaches allow the boys some decent recovery time and some time off, we can make some good gains, even in tournaments.

“All our coaches know that being strong and fit benefits the team massively in our games, and they back us up on that. They are always banging that fitness drum with us.”


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