September 21, 2019 / 3:13 AM / 25 days ago

Gatland braced for forward onslaught from Georgia

TOYOTA CITY, Japan (Reuters) - Wales coach Warren Gatland admits he is worried about the forward muscle of Georgia as he named a full-strength team for his side’s Rugby World Cup Pool D opener at the City of Toyota Stadium on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup warm-up match - Wales v England - Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Britain - August 17, 2019 Wales head coach Warren Gatland before the match REUTERS/Rebecca Naden/File Photo

Gatland is taking no chances after the difficult build-up to the tournament for his side and has decided to give his first-choice side a run in the opening game.

Experienced lock Alun Wyn Jones will lead the side and equal the Welsh record for international caps of 129 held by Gethin Jenkins.

Jones is partnered in the second row by Jake Ball, with Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi making up the back-row.

Wainwright will make his World Cup debut and was selected ahead of Ross Moriarty, who may feel unlucky to have missed out in a squad that has enviable depth in the loose-forwards.

Tomas Francis and Wyn Jones will scrum in the front row either side of hooker Ken Owens and Gatland expects them to be put under pressure.

“With Georgia, we know how strong they are up front and their scrum is a weapon,” Gatland told reporters in Toyota on Saturday.

“We’ve got to be competent at scrum time. Wyn has scrummaged well in training and it’s one of his strengths.

“With Aaron, he’s just a player that’s continued to improve. He’s incredibly athletic and an intelligent rugby player. Since his first cap 12 months ago, he’s just gone from strength to strength.”The halfback pairing sees Gareth Davies play alongside flyhalf Dan Biggar, while Hadleigh Parkes and Jonathan Davies make up the centre-pairing.

Liam Williams is at fullback along with wings Josh Adams and George North.

Gatland also confirmed that loack Adam Beard had arrived in Japan on Saturday after an appendix surgery and started training, but is not expected to feature in the Sept. 29 meeting with Australia that follows the Georgia clash.

Cory Hill, another of the injured locks, is also back in training and should be fit for the team’s second pool match.

Wales’ only previous meeting with Georgia resulted in a narrow 13-6 victory in Cardiff in the November internationals in 2017, though Williams is the only member of Monday’s run-on team who started that game.

Wales will be delighted for the matches to start after a turbulent build-up to the World Cup that saw backs coach Rob Howley return home following an alleged breach of betting rules.

Team:

15-Liam Williams, 14-George North, 13-Jonathan Davies, 12-Hadleigh Parkes, 11-Josh Adams, 10-Dan Biggar, 9-Gareth Davies, 8-Josh Navidi, 7-Justin Tipuric, 6- Aaron Wainwright, 5-Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4-Jake Ball, 3-Tomas Francis, 2-Ken Owens, 1-Wyn Jones

Replacements: 16-Elliot Dee, 17-Nicky Smith, 18-Dillon Lewis, 19-Aaron Shingler, 20-Josh Navidi, 21-Tomos Williams, 22-Rhys Patchell, 23-Leigh Halfpenny.

Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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