Taulupe Faletau starts Wales’ Rugby World Cup opener against Fiji after recovering from a calf injury with Jac Morgan named captain – but Dewi Lake misses out as five players make tournament debut
Taulupe Faletau has made an instant return to the Wales side for their World Cup opener, with Jac Morgan named captain but Dewi Lake missing out against Fiji.
Key No 8 Faletau missed all three of his team’s tournament warm-up games with a calf injury but has returned to full fitness in time to start when it matters in France.
Warren Gatland’s side travelled from Paris to Bordeaux via train on Thursday, with their head coach naming his team to face the Pacific Island nation on arrival.
Faletau’s presence in the XV is a huge boost to Wales. Lake’s absence from the matchday 23 due to a lack of training time is the other big headline.
Ryan Elias starts at hooker in place of the Wales co-captain with Nick Tompkins at centre and Aaron Wainwright completing the back-row alongside Morgan and Faletau.
Taulupe Faletau has made an instant return to the Wales side for their World Cup opener
Dewi Lake will miss the opener against Fiji as he looks to get back to full fitness
WALES SIDE TO FACE FIJI
Kick-off: Sunday, 8pm
Venue: Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux
Starting XV: Liam Williams; Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Nick Tompkins, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Gareth Thomas, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Will Rowlands, Adam Beard, Aaron Wainwright, Jac Morgan (capt), Taulupe Faletau
Replacements: Elliot Dee, Corey Domachowski, Dillon Lewis, Dafydd Jenkins, Tommy Reffell, Tomos Williams, Sam Costelow, Rio Dyer
Gareth Davies begins at No 9 with Tomos Williams on the bench.
Lake has recovered from a knee injury suffered against England at Twickenham last month, but hasn’t trained as much as Gatland would have wanted.
‘The medical team has done a fantastic job getting Dewi back to full fitness,’ he said.
‘He’s not had as much training under his belt as the other hookers since he picked up that knock to his knee, so Ryan and Elliot Dee are selected for this game.’
Wales’ starting line-up for Fiji includes five players who will make their World Cup debuts. A further five players are in line to make their first tournament appearances from the bench.
Gatland said: ‘The squad has worked incredibly hard over the last few months and has been preparing well for Fiji in the last couple of weeks.
‘Fiji are a good side with some great individual athletes and they play with a lot more structure now than maybe they have done traditionally.
‘We’ve had some good clarity about what we want to achieve and the way we want to play on the weekend.
‘It’s going to be an exciting contest on Sunday and one we are relishing.
Jac Morgan will captain Wales against Fiji in Bordeaux on Sunday night
Warren Gatland said his players looked sharp in training ahead of a crucial RWC opener
‘The boys are looking sharp. There’s a great environment in this group with players working for each other and enjoying each other’s company.
‘We’re in a good place and can’t wait to get our World Cup campaign underway.’
George North partners Tompkins in midfield and will make his 17th World Cup appearance in what is his fourth tournament. Davies and Dan Biggar are at No 9 and 10 respectively.
The Welsh back three is Liam Williams, Louis Rees-Zammit and Josh Adams.
Davies has played a part in each of Wales’ last 12 world cup games in the 2015 and 2019 competitions, with Biggar on the cusp of reaching 100 World Cup points.
He is currently on 97.
Dan Biggar will start at fly-half and needs three more points to reach 100 World Cup points
Gareth Thomas and Tomas Francis start as the two props either side of Elias with Will Rowlands and Adam Beard pairing up in the second row.
Elliot Dee, Corey Domachowski, Dillon Lewis, Dafydd Jenkins, Tommy Reffell, Tomos Williams, Sam Costelow and Rio Dyer are the replacements.
It means there is no place in the 23 for experienced operators Leigh Halfpenny and Dan Lydiate.
Fiji will name their team for Wales on Friday having lost key fly-half Caleb Muntz for the whole tournament earlier this week because of a knee injury suffered in training.