Rugby World Cup 2015

Can Wales raise their game again?

Wales' Matthew Morgan (centre) taking part in a training session. He will play against Fiji, replacing the injured Liam Williams.
Wales' Matthew Morgan (centre) taking part in a training session. He will play against Fiji, replacing the injured Liam Williams.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Having gone toe to toe with Stuart Lancaster and emerged victorious, Warren Gatland is taking on human nature this week.

The greatest danger when his Wales side face Fiji in a Pool A clash at the Millennium Stadium today, more so even than the physical threat posed by their opponents, will be their ability to raise their game again, only five days after beating England in such dramatic fashion.

In his own unceremonious way, Gatland addressed those concerns on Tuesday by threatening to drop any player who fell below his usual standards in training. But, even though the players are determined, the motivation will not come as naturally and the adrenaline will not flow as freely as it had done against England.

Gatland named a team showing three enforced changes from the side who won at Twickenham, but warned his players that further switches could be made if their training is not up to scratch.

"They got a bit of a rocket," the head coach said. "I just said that if I see any body language or anything that's not right, I will change (the team). There was obviously a massive high and sometimes the challenge is not physical, it's the mental challenge. It's our job as coaches to get them mentally right for what's going to be a big challenge."

It is a moot point, given his lengthy injury list, how many more changes Gatland could actually make among his backs. A pair of Morgans have replaced a pair of injured Williamses in the starting line-up, with Tyler Morgan replacing Scott Williams at outside centre and Matthew Morgan coming in at full-back for Liam Williams.

The other change results in Alex Cuthbert being promoted to start in place of Hallam Amos, who, like Scott Williams, has been ruled out of the tournament by an injury suffered against England.

With an eight-day break to come before their final pool A match against Australia, Gatland's forward pack, relatively untouched by the injury malaise, remains the same. At least it does as long as they all pass muster during training.

"(Gatland) said he would be looking at the GPS numbers to see how hard we were running and watching the boys' body language," flanker Dan Lydiate revealed.

"He said that if anyone walks round the pitch thinking they can take it easy, they will suffer the consequences and if anyone was brave enough to test that theory, go ahead."

Fiji have been hit by availability problems of their own, with winger Nemani Nadolo ruled out by suspension and Nikola Matawalu, the livewire scrum-half, missing out because of injury.


Pool A, Wales v Fiji: Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, 11.30pm
Pool D, France v Canada: Tomorrow, 2.45am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2015, with the headline 'Can Wales raise their game again?'. Print Edition | Subscribe