Preview: Wales v Uruguay
WORLD CUP POOL MATCH: Wales coach Warren Gatland is billing Sunday’s match against minnows Uruguay as a trial for quarterfinal spots.
He named a vastly rearranged side following the battering they took in overpowering Fiji.
Australia’s 27-8 bonus-point win over Georgia on Friday means Wales need only a draw against the South Americans to secure top spot in Pool D and a quarterfinal against France.
In the unlikely event that Uruguay causes an upset in Kumamoto, far higher on the Richter scale than their shock win over Fiji, then Wales will finish second and play England in the quarterfinals leaving Australia to play France.
After the bruising Wales took in beating an enthusiastic Fiji 29-17 on Wednesday, Gatland has made 13 changes and put his entire 31-man squad on notice that his preferred run-on side for the play-offs is not yet settled.
“The message to the players against Uruguay is that the door is not shut,” the New Zealand-born coach said.
“There are opportunities for players to go out there and impress and stake a claim for a quarter-final spot.”
Injured flyhalf Dan Biggar (head), centre Jonathan Davies (knee) and wing George North (ankle) were not considered but wing Josh Adams, who limped off with a leg knock after scoring three tries against Fiji, will start again as will midfield linkman Hadleigh Parkes.
Justin Tipuric starts in the back row and will captain the side with Alun Wyn Jones rested after leading the side through the first three games.
“Ideally, we’d have given Josh a rest, but that hasn’t been the case,” Gatland said.
“That’s why we’ve gone with a six-two split on the bench with the two nines covering. We can cover a number of positions. We can move guys around,” he added.
* Continue reading below …
Rodrigo Silva, who started on the bench for Uruguay in their historic 30-27 victory over Fiji and is again among the replacements against Wales, said the win over the Pacific islanders was inspirational but it was the way they played against Australia, despite the 45-10 scoreline, that gave them hope.
“We played a great first half and we went toe to toe with a team who is one of the best in the tournament and in the world,” Silva said of the Australia match.
“When these things happen you start to dream and to think that it’s not crazy to think that every time we are a little closer.”
While Typhoon Hagibis has wreaked havoc with scheduling in the greater Tokyo area – forcing the cancellation of New Zealand against Italy and England against France – Wales and Samoa will face each other in the relatively calm Kumamoto on southern Kyushu island.
Gatland said he was not concerned about weather issues and his Six Nations champions were “just concentrating on ourselves and hoping to finish on top of this group and then start thinking about the quarter-final”.
“Hopefully after Sunday we can think about getting down to Oita and preparing for a Sunday game against France. They will be very tough but we have to do a job this Sunday first.”
Players to watch
For Wales: Only centre Hadleigh Parkes and wing Josh Adams, who scored a hat-trick of tries in the ferocious 29-17 victory over the Fijians, remain from that starting XV. Openside flank Justin Tipuric will skipper the team against Uruguay, in a back row also featuring Aaron Shingler and Aaron Wainwright. Ospreys duo Bradley Davies and Adam Beard will pack down in the second row, the latter making his first appearance in Japan after recovering from having his appendix out on the day he was meant to fly out. Nicky Smith, Ryan Elias and Dillon Lewis are named in the front row, while Aled Davies and Rhys Patchell will partner at halfback with Parkes and Owen Watkin comprising the midfield. Hallam Amos and Leigh Halfpenny come into the back three alongside Adams.
For Uruguay: Coach Esteban Meneses has changed his whole back row – reverting to a more experienced combination in front of Santiago Arata, who comes in for Agustin Ormaechea at scrumhalf. No.8 Manuel Diana, who scored Los Teros’ only try against Australia last Saturday, drops to the bench. Centres Andres Vilaseca and Juan Manuel Gaminara, who returns as captain after appearing as a replacement against the Wallabies, are among five starters who also lined up against Wales at the 2015 World Cup. Both will be making a record eighth World Cup appearance for Uruguay.
Head to head
In a game of this nature – where one team is so heavily favoured – you will see who from the minnows can match their much-fancied rivals. Uruguay’s pack will face the biggest challenge, especially in the set pieces – Adam Beard, Bradley Davies, Dillon Lewis, Ryan Elias and Nicky Smith (Wales) against Manuel Leindekar, Ignacio Dotti, Diego Arbelo, German Kessler and Mateo Sanguinetti (Uruguay).
These teams have met only once before …
Prediction: This is expected to be one-way traffic – a case of by how far Wales will win. We feel Wales will cruise to a 25-point victory.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Justin Tipuric (captain), 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Wyn Jones, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Ross Moriarty, 21 James Davies, 22 Tomos Williams, 23 Gareth Davies.
Uruguay: 15 Gaston Mieres, 14 Leandro Leivas, 13 Juan Manuel Cat, 12 Andres Vilaseca, 11 Nicolas Freitas, 10 Felipe Berchesi, 9 Santiago Arata, 8 Alejandro Nieto, 7 Santiago Civetta, 6 Juan Manuel Gaminara, 5 Manuel Leindekar, 4 Ignacio Dotti, 3 Diego Arbelo, 2 German Kessler, 1 Mateo Sanguinetti.
Replacements: 16 Guillermo Pujadas, 17 Juan Echeverria, 18 Juan Pedro Rombys, 19 Diego Magno, 20 Manuel Diana, 21 Agustin Ormaechea, 22 Tomas Inciarte, 23 Rodrigo Silva.
Date: Sunday, October 13
Venue: Kumamoto Stadium, Kumamoto City
Kick-off: 17.15 (05.15 Uruguay time; 08.15 GMT; 09.15 UK & Ireland time)
Expected weather: Sunny to partly cloudy and beautiful. High of 26°C and a low of 13°C
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce (England), Karl Dickson (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)