Wales welcome Faletau back into side for World Cup opener against Fiji

Wales welcome Taulupe Faletau back into their side for World Cup opener against Fiji after ’15 weeks of hell’, with flanker Jac Morgan set to captain Warren Gatland’s outfit in Dewi Lake’s absence

  • Wales get their World Cup campaign underway on Sunday when they take on Fiji 
  • Warren Gatland put his squad through a tough training camp over the summer
  • Flanker Jac Morgan will captain the team in Bordeaux with Dewi Lake absent 

Wales’ World Cup squad headed to Bordeaux from Paris yesterday via train and after ‘15 weeks of hell’ welcomed No 8 Taulupe Faletau back into their side. 

Warren Gatland’s men face Fiji here on Sunday in their Pool C opener. They will hope their match with the Pacific Islanders is as smooth sailing as their TGV ride through France. 

The reality is it is unlikely to be so, although head coach Gatland was able to mark arrival in Bordeaux by naming a strong team. Co-captain Dewi Lake won’t be involved against Fiji due to a lack of training time, but Faletau is back after missing Wales’ warm-up games with a calf problem. 

Flanker Jac Morgan will captain the side with Lake not in the 23. Gareth Davies, Nick Tompkins and Aaron Wainwright are also other notable starting selections. 

‘The medical team has done a fantastic job getting Dewi back to full fitness,’ Gatland said. 

Wales have welcomed Taulupe Faletau back into their XV for the World Cup opener against Fiji

Gatland has named his team after putting his side through a gruelling schedule this summer

‘He’s not had as much training under his belt as the other hookers since he picked up that knock to his knee (against England), so Ryan Elias and Elliot Dee are selected for this game.’ 

After gruelling training camps in Wales, Switzerland and Turkey, Gatland’s men are now ready to play. 

‘We’ve had 15 weeks of hell,’ said prop Corey Domachowski, who is one of 10 players poised for a World Cup bow against Fiji. 

‘It’s been absolutely savage. I genuinely think if we put what we’ve done on the training field on to the playing field, then we are going to be a tough team to beat. 

‘We are not going to worry about any opposition. We know we’ve got quality in the squad.’ 

Wales certainly do. And after a miserable season dominated by off-field chaos, Gatland’s camp is a happy one again. 

‘The squad has worked incredibly hard over the last few months and has been preparing well for Fiji in the last couple of weeks,’ Gatland said. 

‘Fiji are a good side with some great individual athletes and they play with a lot more structure now than maybe they have done traditionally. 

‘We’ve had some good clarity about what we want to achieve and the way we want to play on the weekend. It’s going to be an exciting contest on Sunday and one we are relishing. 

‘The boys are looking sharp. There’s a great environment in this group with players working for each other and enjoying each other’s company. 

‘We’re in a good place and can’t wait to get our World Cup campaign underway.’ 

Scrum-half Davies has played a part in each of Wales’ last 12 World Cup games in the 2015 and 2019 competitions and will start in Bordeaux with Tomos Williams on the bench. 

Davies fell out of Welsh favour when the team was under the guidance of Wayne Pivac and has admitted he felt he had to change his game, something which meant he fell out of love with rugby. 

‘Twelve months ago I probably wouldn’t have thought I would be involved in the first game of a World Cup, but anything can happen in rugby as we all know,’ said the No 9. 

‘I have worked extremely hard over the last year to work myself into contention and hopefully I can show that on Sunday.’ 

Wales’ squad for Fiji contains a nice mix of youth and experience. Alongside side rookies like captain Morgan and his nine fellow World Cup debutants, Gatland can call on experience in the likes of Faletau, fly-half Dan Biggar, centre George North and full-back Liam Williams. 

George North is set to make his 17th World Cup appearance in what is his fourth tournament

Flanker Jac Morgan will captain the side with Dewi Lake not quite ready to return to action

North partners Tompkins in midfield and will make his 17th World Cup appearance in what is his fourth tournament. The Welsh back three looks dangerous and is made up of Liam Williams, Louis Rees-Zammit and Josh Adams. 

Biggar needs only three points against Fiji to reach 100 at World Cups. ‘It doesn’t worry us too much being favourites or underdogs. Fiji are playing well and they’re above us in the rankings,’ said Wales skills coach Neil Jenkins. 

‘They’re a good side who won at Twickenham a couple of weeks back and gave France a tough time before that. We’re under no illusions. We’ll need to be right on it on Sunday night. 

‘You want to get off to the best possible start.’ 

Fiji will name their team for Wales on Friday having lost key fly-half Caleb Muntz for the whole tournament earlier this week because of a knee injury suffered in training.

Wales side to face Fiji (kick-off 8pm Sunday, Bordeaux): Liam Williams; Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Nick Tompkins, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Gareth Thomas, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Will Rowlands, Adam Beard, Aaron Wainwright, Jac Morgan (capt), Taulupe Faletau

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Corey Domachowski, Dillon Lewis, Dafydd Jenkins, Tommy Reffell, Tomos Williams, Sam Costelow, Rio Dyer

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