Warren Gatland looks to freshen Wales up after brutal win against Fiji with Dan Biggar and Liam Williams set to be rested for clash against Portugal… and Leigh Halfpenny in line for his first Rugby World Cup start in eight years
The sight of a young family apparently spending the night in a car park next to the Stade Charles-Ehrmann in Nice on Tuesday put the importance of Wales’ World Cup bid into perspective.
While two young girls braided each other’s hair and sheltered from the scorching heat of the Côte d’Azur, a man and a woman rummaged through the garbage bins looking for something to eat.
It was heartbreaking to see. Across the parking lot, aspiring bikers practiced for their test by weaving in and out of cones to hone their skills.
Basically, Warren Gatland’s players did the same thing, just without the aid of horsepower.
The Wales team bus pulled up at the other end of the ground to the car park. The team filed into the locker room and the majority were wearing flip-flops, sliders or Crocs.
Wales returned to training on Tuesday ahead of their match against Portugal on Saturday
Warren Gatland has no injury concerns after Sunday’s 32-26 win over Fiji
Wales play Portugal on Saturday and take on Australia in a crucial match on September 24
After bouncing back from a brutal win over Fiji with a dip in the crystal clear waters of the French Riviera on Monday evening, Wales’ focus is now on Portugal.
Different location, same circumstances.
Wales has moved from Versailles to Bordeaux and now to Nice. It remains hot, but Wales’ World Cup journey has now built momentum after their opening success.
Gatland’s team almost threw away the victory. Had Fijian magician Semi Radradra collected a pass with the clock in red or had referee Matthew Carley not lost his cards, Wales might well have lost.
But they didn’t. And as Dan Biggar said, winning is everything in a World Cup.
Barring major setbacks, Wales will beat Portugal on Saturday with a bonus point to move to a perfect 10 points from two games.
It will send them in good condition for the exciting Pool C match against Australia.
Wales made a World Cup record 253 tackles and somehow ran out 32-26 winners in their first match. Gatland is about to make some changes for Portugal, and understandably so.
Wales got off to a winning start in the World Cup, but could very well have lost to Fiji
The brutal nature of the encounter took its toll on Wales, with Gatland set to rest several players against Portugal this weekend
Wales made a World Cup record 253 tackles in the sweltering heat in Bordeaux
The question is: how much?
Fly-half Biggar, full-back Liam Williams and lock Adam Beard all trained separately for the main group during Tuesday afternoon’s session in Wales. It is unlikely that all three will play against Portugal.
Gareth Anscombe is set to start at 10 in place of Biggar, with Leigh Halfpenny replacing Williams, although Gatland could opt for Sam Costelow as playmaker.
Dafydd Jenkins is likely to take Beard’s place in the second row alongside Will Rowlands, who made a whopping 27 of Wales’ total tackles against Fiji without missing a single one.
Rowlands played down the nature of his achievement in a no-nonsense manner.
Dan Biggar trained separately on Tuesday and will probably be rested against Portugal
Liam Williams also trained separately and is unlikely to be present in Nice on Saturday
“It’s a six-day turnaround so it makes sense to make a few changes to the nature of the match we’ve just played,” Wales assistant coach Jonathan Thomas said.
“It’s safe to say there will be changes. We have full confidence in the entire team.’
It will be interesting to see if number 8 Taulupe Faletau will face Portugal.
Faletau missed all three of Wales’ World Cup warm-up matches in August due to a calf problem.
He started against Fiji given his status as one of Gatland’s most experienced and high-quality players and made it all the way through 58 minutes before running out of juice.
Faletau has indicated that he wants to play against Portugal to improve his match fitness ahead of the match in Australia. Eddie Jones’ Wallabies are the big fish Wales wants to catch.
Gatland names his team for Portugal on Wednesday afternoon.
Will Rowlands made an astonishing 27 tackles in the six-point win against Fiji, but he played down the nature of the achievement in typically understated fashion
Gatland will name his team against Portugal on Wednesday afternoon
‘It’s good to be there again. The best part was the result: that’s what we wanted. We are happy with that,” Faletau said after the win over Fiji, before admitting he found the pace of the match difficult.
“It was hard, I won’t lie. It was heavy. I haven’t played much and with playing time you hope to get better.’
Even after the brutality of the match against Fiji, Wales have no serious injury concerns.
‘We are very happy with the victory. Given the nature of the World Cup, we have had 12 weeks to think about the first match,” Thomas said.
‘Are we satisfied with where we are? There is always room for improvement in our game. We are certainly not getting ahead of ourselves.
Wales assistant coach Jonathan Thomas hinted Wales will reshuffle team against Portugal as there were ‘a number of sore bodies’ in camp
Taulupe Faletau has indicated that he wants to play against Portugal to improve his match fitness ahead of the match in Australia
Leigh Halfpenny could make his first Rugby World Cup start in eight years against Portugal
“There are some sore bodies, but no injury concerns.”
Just hours after the Wales players had finished training and Thomas, Rowlands and Jenkins had faced the press, the young family stood outside the Stade Charles-Ehrmann again.
The area close to the ground is one of the poorest in Nice and contains many tall buildings. In a luxurious city generally dominated by a cash-rich society, this is a clear contrast to the status quo.
At a tram stop one of the young girls begged for money. It was another reminder of how happy the Wales team – and those who follow them – are.