Talking points ahead of Wales’ final World Cup warm-up game against South Africa
Wales play their final World Cup warm-up Test on Saturday when they tackle South Africa at the Principality Stadium.
It is a last opportunity for players to impress before Wales head coach Warren Gatland announces his 33-player World Cup squad.
Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the talking points heading into the game.
Wales’ World Cup hopefuls will know within 48 hours of the final whistle against South Africa whether they have made Gatland’s squad. A tough preparation period has included training camps in Switzerland and Turkey, plus home and away appointments with England, and decision day is now looming. Wales currently have a 48-strong group while only two players – injured pair Gareth Anscombe and Taulupe Faletau – will not have been involved in the warm-ups, although they are widely expected to make the World Cup squad. Saturday’s game sees some players entering the last-chance saloon.
Captain Morgan in the driving seat
With Ospreys flanker Jac Morgan leading Wales in two of their three preparation Tests, he is now an odds-on favourite to be the World Cup captain. The 23-year-old set a high bar during Wales’ 20-9 victory over England on August 5, and he has been handed the reins against South Africa. Gatland appointed a 22-year-old Sam Warburton as his World Cup skipper in 2011, and Morgan is out of a similar mould as an outstanding performer who has huge respect from playing peers and coaches alike. No-one can seriously question his credentials for the job.
Wales in decent shape
When Gatland returned for a second stint as Wales boss seven months ago, off-field issues abounded and spilled over into the Guinness Six Nations. Welsh rugby was gripped by financial strife and contractual uncertainty, with a threatened players’ strike only averted three days before England arrived in Cardiff. Wales finished fifth in the tournament, winning a solitary game, but Gatland has now stamped his mark during a priceless three-month period with the players, and the whole environment feels and looks a better place. Wales were World Cup semi-finalists twice during Gatland’s previous reign. Enough said.
The future looks bright
There will inevitably be a sense of crushing disappointment for those players not selected in Wales’ World Cup squad, but the seeds of Wales’ 2027 campaign in Australia are already being sown. Gatland’s preliminary training squad announced in May contained 10 uncapped players, and he has not been afraid to give them a chance. Centres Max Llewellyn and Joe Roberts and prop Corey Domachowski are among those who have impressed, while the further progression of players such as fly-half Sam Costelow, centre Mason Grady and lock Dafydd Jenkins has been met with considerable excitement. Whatever happens on Monday, Wales’ player pool is rippling nicely.
Siya Kolisi’s timely return
When South Africa’s 2019 World Cup-winning captain suffered a knee injury in April and subsequently underwent knee surgery, doubts surfaced about whether he would be fit in time for the Springboks’ title defence. It has been a long road back, but Kolisi will make his first appearance of the year in Cardiff after missing the Rugby Championship. South Africa face New Zealand at Twickenham next Friday, then it is full steam ahead for a World Cup opener against Scotland on September 10. With their figurehead back, it should feel like business as usual for the Springboks.
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