Gatland expecting wide open World Cup

Warren Gatland believes there are as many as six or seven teams capable of winning the World Cup after naming his 31-man Wales squad for the tournament.

Lock Cory Hill has been named in the group despite suffering from a leg fracture.

Dragons lock 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.

Cory Hill (centre) is in the Wales squad
Cory Hill (centre) is in the Wales squad (Paul Harding/PA)

He has not played since February, while fly-half Rhys Patchell also features following his try-scoring exploits against Ireland on Saturday.

Scarlets props Rob Evans and Samson Lee did not 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,” Wales head coach 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.

“I think this is the most open World Cup we’ve had for a long time. There are six or seven teams capable of winning the World Cup.

“You always need a little bit of luck. You get to the quarter-finals 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.”

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 from Wales’ training group.

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.

“Someone like Rhys Carre has made incredible progress. He’s dropped 10kgs, I thought he did well on Saturday.

“Apart from one day, when he found it tough when his calves were tight, he hasn’t missed a training session, he hasn’t been in the physio room.”

Wales have named their squad for this month's Rugby World Cup in Japan, featuring:

– 18 forwards, 13 backs– 13 players with RWC experience #RWC2019pic.twitter.com/2UlkwPtjs6

— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) September 1, 2019

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 fly-half place alongside Dan Biggar when they had 40 minutes each in Saturday’s 22-17 defeat against Ireland.

“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.

Patchell forced his way into the squad
Patchell forced his way into the squad (Adam Davy/PA)

“He came in not being picked for the Scarlets, being on the bench and not having a lot of rugby, so we wanted to bring him along slowly, giving him the confidence and belief he can perform at this level.”

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

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

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