Rugby Today News : Veteran Jamie Roberts of Wales has voiced his thoughts on the opening match of the Rugby World Cup against Fiji, forecasting a challenging ‘humdinger’ for Warren Gatland’s team.
Throughout their history, Gatland’s squad has suffered defeat against Fiji only once, a demoralizing loss that knocked them out of the 2007 World Cup. However, they currently rank below the Pacific Islanders in the global rankings.
Roberts, having played two World Cups with Wales, anticipates an intense match in Bordeaux in the upcoming weeks, the outcome of which might greatly influence the remaining pool C participants’ performances.
Speaking to ITV in France about his expectations, the former centre stated, “Under Warren, I believe Wales, after months together building confidence, will intensely focus on conditioning, ensuring they are in tip-top shape, and I just hope their game plan allows them to express themselves.”
He further added, “The first match against Fiji in Bordeaux will be thrilling for Wales. It’s going to be a one-score game, and this match, regardless of the outcome, will profoundly influence the group.”
Gatland’s Watchful Eye
As England takes on Fiji in their final warm-up match before the World Cup this afternoon, Warren Gatland will undoubtedly be among the keen spectators. Fiji ranks first in France for Gatland’s team, and the coach will keep a vigilant watch over the proceedings at Twickenham, aiming to gain strategic insights before the imminent Pool C encounter on 10th September.
Wales has encountered the Flying Fijians in the previous four World Cups, making them familiar opponents. However, facing the Pacific Islanders in the inaugural match will be a tall order, especially considering they’re currently ranked ninth globally, a spot above Gatland’s team.
But Fiji won’t be the only concern for the Wales boss. Should both sides progress from their respective pools, a potential quarter-final date with England might be on the cards.
Rugby Today News Setbacks for Key Players
Last week, Steve Borthwick witnessed disruptions to his World Cup plans as Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola were banned for four and three matches respectively. Additionally, winger Anthony Watson had to withdraw from the tournament due to an injury.
Vunipola might only miss the opener against Los Pumas if he chooses to reduce his suspension by attending ‘tackle school’. In his absence, Ben Earl will start at number 8, while George Ford remains as fly-half. Courtney Lawes will captain the team in his 100th appearance, and despite not being named in Borthwick’s World Cup team, Jonny May will begin as a winger.
Potential Setbacks for New Zealand
New Zealand’s forward, Scott Barrett, could potentially face exclusion from the World Cup due to a red card he received during his team’s 35-7 loss against South Africa.
However, the subsequent review by the off-field TMO decided against upgrading the challenge to a direct red card. This decision might save Barrett from suspension, but there’s still a possibility that the citing commission might look closely at the incident and potentially rule him out from the initial phase of the tournament in France.
During the one-sided contest against South Africa, the latter also faced suspension fears as Peter-Steph Du Toit was shown a yellow card in the second half. However, just like Barrett’s case, off-field TMO reviews decided against an upgrade.