Sun 1 Sep 2019 | 09:33

Seven World Cup contenders

Seven World Cup contenders
Sun 1 Sep 2019 | 09:33
Seven World Cup contenders
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REACTION: Warren Gatland says Wales are among seven teams who have a genuine chance of winning the World Cup.

His statement followed after he named his 31-man squad for the tournament on Sunday.

Wales’ opening World Cup game is against Georgia on September 23, followed by facing Australia in Tokyo six days later.

The tournament will be Gatland’s farewell from a role he has filled since 2008, during which Wales have won four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and reached a World Cup semifinal.

And the Kiwi is expecting a wide-open tournament in the battle to take the title from holders New Zealand.

“I think this is the most open World Cup we’ve had for a long time,” Gatland said.

“There are six or seven teams capable of winning the World Cup,” he added.

“You always need a little bit of luck.

“You get to the quarterfinals and then take it one game at a time.

“I think it [squad] is good enough to win [the World Cup]. We go there with a lot of confidence.”

Dragons lock Cory Hill has been selected despite suffering from a fractured leg which has kept him out since February.

Hill, who captained his country in two Tests against Argentina last year, could be unavailable until Wales’ second pool game against Australia in Tokyo on September 29.

Flyhalf Rhys Patchell also features following his try-scoring display in the warm-up defeat against Ireland at the weekend.

Experienced Scarlets props Rob Evans and Samson Lee failed to make the cut, with Saracens loosehead Rhys Carre, who made his Test debut against Ireland, among five players chosen in that position.

“We’ll have to assess the progress of someone like Cory Hill,” Gatland said.

“Hopefully, he will be on track to make that second game, but if he doesn’t hit his markers, we may have to make a call.”

Gatland has opted for a split of 13 backs and 18 forwards, but Evans and Lee, who have 77 caps between them, miss out along with the likes of Jarrod Evans, Owen Lane, Scott Williams and Bradley Davies.

Gatland added: “When we decided to go with the five props, one of the big discussion points was how durable the props were.

“Rob hasn’t trained a lot in the lead-up to the World Cup matches. He came in with a shoulder injury, then he picked up a neck injury and a few back issues, so he hadn’t played a lot.

“Samson has missed a few campaigns through injury, and had a hamstring issue during the campaign.”

It will be captain Alun Wyn Jones’ fourth World Cup, with wing George North and hooker Ken Owens featuring in the tournament for a third time.

Patchell and Jarrod Evans effectively played for one outside-half place alongside Dan Biggar when they had 40 minutes each in the Ireland match.

“I thought Rhys came on and gave a pretty solid performance in the second half,” Gatland said.

“For us, with Rhys, the whole time he’s been with us it has been about rebuilding his confidence.”

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Seven World Cup Contenders | Rugby365