Wales, who have already lost four players from their World Cup squad, are set to have to replace two more before Thursday’s match against Fiji at the Millennium Stadium.
Saturday night’s victory over England, which saw them score their highest number of points at Twickenham – 105 years after their first match there – came at a cost with the centre Scott Williams taken off the field on a stretcher with a knee injury and wing Hallam Amos suffering a suspected dislocated shoulder. In addition, the full-back Liam Williams was concussed after being kicked in the head and has to follow the return-to-play protocol.
“The players are being assessed by our medical team, with Hallam and Scott the biggest concerns, and we will have a better idea of where we are on Monday when the results of scans will have come through,” said the Wales defence coach, Shaun Edwards. “The resilience shown by the players means that, if we do lose one or two, others will step up and ensure we perform as we did at Twickenham. We will dust ourselves down and get on with it.”
Wales were already without two centres, Jonathan Davies and Cory Allen, before Scott Williams’s injury and they are likely to have to play non-specialists at 13 and 15 against Fiji. They have the option of calling on James Hook, an outside-half who was capped a month after he was dropped from the pre-World Cup squad, while Gavin Henson, who has never appeared in a World Cup, is a wild-card midfield option.
“We have put ourselves in a good position in the group by beating England but we know the job is only half done,” said Edwards. “We are still definitely not through even if we beat Fiji [they will almost certainly be if England lose to Australia two days later] and I do not think we will be resting too many players on Thursday.
“When you get momentum, you want to keep it going and we have a long turnaround after Thursday before Australia. We will show Fiji the respect they deserve having played so well in the competition. The victory against England was special and on the biggest stage of all but we are far from safe yet. We are not here just to win one match, even if it was nice to see underdogs cause another upset. To be a great player or team you need resilience and the ability to dig deep. Our players have that.”
George North is set to move from wing to outside-centre against Fiji. “I am not unfamiliar with the position and it may be that I am picked there,” he said. “This is the World Cup and you have to adapt and learn new roles. I will play anywhere, except the front row. It is never nice to see your mates go down injured but as a squad we have always been there together.
“You see one man go down and you think he has come this far, it is not fair that he cannot go an extra bit so we may as well dig in for him,” continued North.
“He has been there as long as you have and done just as much work; one in, all in. Our mind-set is to take each game as it comes and we showed in the last World Cup we can do a lot of damage when we put our minds to it. We have to make sure we are right for Fiji and then Australia. Coming home after Twickenham was special: how many times in your career will you be able to say you beat the host nation in their back garden? As soon as we got back, the focus was on Fiji.”
The Wales second-row Luke Charteris, who led the defence of England’s driving lineout in the closing minutes, said: “You have to enjoy victories like this but it is no good having one good win and then losing the next two games and going out. Our aim is to get through the pool and we need to recover quickly. We have had a few more bumps but all we can do is focus on our next match.”
- The Guardian UK