Sunday, September 24, 2023
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Gatland writes off Bok Test

Warren Gatland said that Liam Williams and Dan Biggar could have faced the Springboks on Saturday, but “there was no point” risking the Wales veterans before the World Cup.

Initially named in the starting XV for the clash in Cardiff, Biggar and Williams were ruled out for the Welsh Dragons in midweek due to back and hamstring injuries, respectively.

Veteran wing Alex Cuthbert, who had been due to make his first appearance of the World Cup warm-up campaign this weekend against the world champions, on Friday also had to withdraw because of calf muscle tightness.

Their absence means Wales will field an inexperienced back division, but speaking in the build-up to the match, Gatland insisted that there was nothing to be gained from playing Williams and Biggar with niggles.

“Both Williams and Biggar, if we pushed them hard, could play on Saturday, but the decision was made there is no point taking a risk at this stage,” the Wales coach told reporters.

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“If this was a World Cup semi-final, Dan Biggar would have been fine for the weekend.”

Gatland added: “I am just focusing on the short term. I have never been a person who thinks long term too much in terms of my own personal situation. I am a great believer in what will be, will be.

“I have already said that the work this group has done and strides we have made. I think we can do something pretty special at this World Cup, and I honestly believe that.

“If that happens, then those other things take care of themselves.”

Forwards Dewi Lake and Taine Plumtree, who were injured during Wales’ defeat against England at Twickenham last weekend, are on course to be available for the World Cup opener against Fiji in Bordeaux on 10 September.

Blindside flanker Jac Morgan, at only 23 years old, will captain an experienced Wales outfit, for what is likely the last opportunity for fringe players to make their case for a 33-man World Cup squad set to be named 48 hours of the final whistle.

“There is an opportunity for players on Saturday. We will come back as a coaching group after the game and finalise the squad,” Gatland said.

“We are confident that those players carrying injuries are going to be available for the first game against Fiji.”

Photo: EPA/BackpagePix

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