Rugby World Cup: England start to twitch as Wales get serious
Warren Gatland includes Matthew Morgan in squad and takes aim at England in the 'pool of death'
Wales coach Warren Gatland has upped the ante in the Rugby World Cup 'pool of death' after unveiling his squad for the tournament, and he appears to have picked England as the team to target.
There were few surprises in Monday's squad announcement, as the blood-letting had come earlier in the month, with the omission of Mike Phillips, James Hook and Richard Hibbard.
"The focus this time was on who was in rather than who was out and the one left-field inclusion was the Bristol fly-half Matthew Morgan, who was named as a back-three option," says The Guardian, which notes that the seven players who failed to make the cut had just 19 caps between them, compared with the 210 that the three high-profile Lions had amassed.
Gatland also "fired his first shot in England's direction" ahead of the group stage showdown at Twickenham later this month, which could decide which team progresses to the quarter finals, says the Daily Telegraph.
Gatland emphasised how settled and experienced his first team is and suggested that England "are probably not 100 per cent sure of where they are going". He also singled out Luther Burrell and Dylan Hartley as big players for England… who have been left out of Stuart Lancaster's squad.
The Kiwi also indulged in some mind games ahead of the clash between England and Ireland in the final warm-up match this weekend. Ireland lost to Wales on Saturday and England were beaten by France in their last outing, and the Wales coach wasted no time in pointing out that one of the two teams would now go into the World Cup on the back of two defeats.
England fans will be "starting to twitch," writes Robert Kitson of the Guardian. "Wales suddenly sit above them in the world rankings – fifth to England's sixth – and this week's squad announcement was classic Gatland: bold, assertive, no-nonsense and coolly delivered.
"Across the whole squad Wales have more caps, more experience, a greater number of Lions and, by virtue of picking Morgan after England rejected Danny Cipriani, more perceived X-factor."
Wales were impressive against Ireland at the weekend says Ian McGeechan in the Telegraph. "Watching Wales' performance in Dublin will have rammed home to England the fact that there will be no soft touches in Pool A... when they have their top players on the pitch and they are fit, they are a match for anybody in the world."
However, Wales do not have strength is depth and Jamie Roberts and Alun Wyn Jones are likely to miss the final warm-up against Italy after picking up knocks against Ireland. "These are two pillars without whom Gatland's structure would start to look a little shaky and he is acutely conscious of the need to preserve as well as prepare," says The Times.
- Andrew Trimble was the biggest casualty as Ireland unveiled their 31 man squad for the tournament. The 30-year-old winger, who was Ireland's player of the year in 2014, missed this year's Six Nations because of a toe injury but returned to action in last month's victory over Wales in Cardiff.