October 14, 2019, 11:11

Wales in good shape to avoid another ‘Nightmare in Nantes’ against Fiji

Wales in good shape to avoid another ‘Nightmare in Nantes’ against Fiji

The ‘Nightmare in Nantes’ at the 2007 World Cup is for many Welsh rugby fans a defeat that still gets the stomach churning.

A late try saw Gareth Jenkins’ side lose 38-34 to Fiji and crash out of the tournament at the group stage, having tried to play the island nation at their own game; fast, open, running rugby.

Four years later at the World Cup in New Zealand, with Warren Gatland then in charge, they didn’t make the same mistake and, on a sunny day in Hamilton, Wales thrashed Fiji 66-0.

So it is little surprise that Gatland has picked a near full-strength side to face Fiji again, this time in Oita on Wednesday, and a win will see Wales qualify for the quarter-finals in Japan.

“They’ve got some quality individuals,” Gatland said. “When they get some confidence and belief, they’re incredibly dangerous. They’ve got some real threats and we just have to make sure we focus on ourselves.

“We saw how dangerous they were against Australia. Our starts have been exceptional and it’s important we start well on Wednesday and take that excitement away from Fiji.”

Biggar boost

Having had eight days to prepare for this game, first choice fly-half Dan Biggar has recovered from a head injury and starts at No 10.

That is a huge boost. Rhys Patchell did brilliantly when he came on against Australia in Tokyo, but if Wales are to go deep at this World Cup, they need Biggar fully fit and firing. And Gatland knows it too.

“It’s good,” he said. “Having that experience is important for us, so it’s been a boost for us. He was fine the next day and he’s gone through all the protocols. It’s good we had the extended break to give him a bit more time.”

James ‘Cubby Boi’ Davies

Meanwhile, James Davies’ inclusion in the starting XV is a really interesting selection.

The Scarlets open-side may be small in stature but he’s incredibly quick and skilful. Like Justin Tipuric, he’s as much at home in the back line as he is the pack.

His height also allows him to get low over the ball at the breakdown and affect turnovers.

He was one of the stand-out players in Britain’s silver medal-winning team at the Rio Olympics three years ago and has been excellent for the Scarlets ever since.

If Wales didn’t have such a dearth of back-row talent, it is likely he would have far more than his five caps.

And it will be a proud day for the Davies family as James lines-up alongside brother Jonathan.

Source: skysports.com

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