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Joe Mewis: Gatland eyes fringe benefits against Ireland

06 Aug | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Joe Mewis: Gatland eyes fringe benefits against Ireland

After a gruelling World Cup training camp in Doha, the Welsh coach will be hoping his young guns will grasp their opportunity against the Six Nations champions

It’s eyes down for Wales and Ireland as their World Cup preparations enter the home straight at what is expected to be a sell-out Millennium Stadium on Saturday.  

For a Wales side that have been chiselled into shape during two hellish-sounding fitness training camps in Switzerland and Qatar, it is finally time to get out and play some rugby.

But what are Warren Gatland’s priorities against the Six Nations champions?

This first of three pre-tournament friendlies will see the current 47-man squad’s fringe players handed a chance to stake a claim to avoid the next cull, with Gatland set to trim his band of merry men down to 38 next week.  

While the Welsh chief is playing his cards close to his chest in regards as to who will start, it is the tight-head position that is the most intriguing.  

Samson Lee remains a huge injury worry, with Gatland indicating that he is willing to take him to the tournament even if the Scarlet man isn’t fully fit, as the New Zealander is also ruing an injury to Lee’s club team-mate Rhodri Jones.

So, who will be handed the chance to stake a claim? Blues prop Scott Andrews has been called up as a replacement for Jones, while Ospreys’ Aaron Jarvis and Tomas Francis of Exeter are also in the training squad.  

Of these likely lads, expect the fit-again Francis to get the nod on Saturday, after he appeared to prove that he was over his lingering back problems as he starred for Exeter in the Aviva Premiership last term.  

The Welsh have had an over-reliance on Lee since the retirement of Adam Jones, but Francis will be relishing the opportunity to prove that he is a more-than-capable deputy.  

Elsewhere, keep an eye out for uncapped Ross Moriarty, who could make a late charge into the final squad after listening to his father and uncle – former Wales stalwarts Paul and Richard – and declaring for the Welsh.  

The 21-year-old Gloucester flanker has drawn comparisons to a young Scott Quinnell, proving his worth in a stellar performance against Bordeaux-Begles in the European Challenge Cup last season and could well end up being one of the tournament’s emerging stars.  

Younger still is Hallam Amos, the 20-year-old back from Newport, who Gatland has singled out for praise in the past and will likely gain his second cap against the Irish, as he looks to combine international rugby stardom with life as a student doctor.

As with any warm-up match, Gatland will be praying to avoid any serious injuries – particularly at prop – but if the likes of Francis, Moriarty and Amos seize their opportunities against the Irish, then he may well end up with a few welcome selection headaches on Saturday night when he plots his next round of cuts.  

And if the Welsh are to negotiate through their group of death against England, Australia, Fiji and Uruguay and then improve on 2011’s heartbreaking semi-final loss, they will need to find an X-factor from somewhere.

What better place to start looking than on Saturday?

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