Full-back Liam Williams and prop Samson Lee will both begin comebacks after injury when Wales open their campaign against Uruguay in Cardiff on Sunday.
Williams has not played since the end of last season due to a foot problem, while his Scarlets colleague Lee has been sidelined since suffering an Achilles injury during Wales’ Six Nations victory over Ireland six months ago.
Sam Warburton captains the team, but he will wear the number six shirt, with Justin Tipuric at openside flanker, and there are also opportunities in the team named by head coach Warren Gatland for wing Hallam Amos, fly-half Rhys Priestland and scrum-half Gareth Davies.
There’ll be loads of ‘oh Wales shouldn’t be worried’….reality is that’s a good win for England against a tough Fijian side….
— Martyn Williams (@martynewilliams) September 18, 2015
Star players like George North, Jamie Roberts, Dan Biggar, Gethin Jenkins, Alun-Wyn Jones and Taulupe Faletau sit out the match ahead of next week’s crunch Twickenham appointment with England.
Williams’ return to full fitness is particularly timely given the World Cup-ending knee injury suffered by Leigh Halfpenny during Wales’ final tournament warm-up fixture against Italy a fortnight ago. And Gatland will hope Williams can quickly rediscover the form that made him such a key part of Wales’ performances last term, when he featured on the wing.
Lee, too, is pivotal to Wales’ hopes of progressing from a punishing pool that also features England, Australia and Fiji, having established a huge reputation in a short space of time for his powerful scrummaging.
Priestland, meanwhile, starts his first Test since last year’s autumn programme as Wales look to rack up the points before heading to Twickenham next week.
Gatland said: “Playing in a World Cup, in your home country, at your home ground, is a great honour, and I’m sure the players will take that into the game.
“It is great to have Liam and Samson back in the starting lineup. They have trained incredibly hard, and it is a great opportunity for them.”
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has appealed for a fair deal from referees as he embarks on a campaign to produce the first side to win the World Cup twice in a row.
No team has won back-to-back World Cup and the All Blacks, winners in 1987 and 2011, have never won it away from home. But Hansen said if the referees are fair to all sides, and the All Blacks are not enveloped by the over-confidence that has ruined previous missions, then there is no reason why it cannot happen this time.
“All we want is for them to be consistent,” Hansen said after naming a full strength squad for the All Blacks first match against Argentina at Wembley on Sunday.
— Stuff.co.nz News (@NZStuff) September 18, 2015
“Someone’s going to have to do it first and we’re the only ones in this tournament that have got an opportunity. Although I want to emphasise that we learned in ‘07 if you look too far ahead you get on a plane and go home so we’ll just worry about Argentina this week, Namibia next game and so forth. It’s an old cliche but it’s one we hang on to.”
Under Hansen’s reign, the All Blacks have only suffered defeat three times in 47 Tests. The record includes notable come-from-behind wins against Ireland in Dublin in 2013 and Australia in Brisbane last year which Hansen said showed “we have the mental strength to get the job done.
“This team has got a lot of talent and it’s got a lot of self belief. Now, it just needs to have the hunger and desire and work ethic and use the luck we get,” he added.
Hansen left nothing to chance for New Zealand’s opener, sticking stuck by a team that delivers his high-risk, high-reward policy.
Led by Richie McCaw in his 143rd Test, the team contains an impressive 1,013 Test caps and a further 316 on the bench where Hansen has gone for a five forward, three back split.
“It was pretty straight forward,” Hansen said. “We’ve selected what we believe is a very strong team. We have the utmost respect for Argentina who we know a lot more about now because of their involvement in the Rugby Championship. But it also means they know a lot more about us.”
Hansen has put his faith in fledgling international Nehe Milner-Skudder to partner Julian Savea on the wing.
The pack include six players who featured in the World Cup final four years ago with McCaw, Kieran Read and Jerome Kaino as the loose trio, lock Sam Whitelock and props Tony Woodcock and Owen Franks.
France's coach Philippe Saint-Andre insists his team have vastly improved from recent Six Nations disappointments as they prepare to face Italy in their Rugby World Cup 2015 opener on Saturday.
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Saint-Andre said: "[We are] Much, much better. Much, much better, I think we show it already in the warm-up games so I feel that, you know we have been in preparations since 5th July, 6th July and the team is ready, the team is much, much fitter and we have much more habit to play together. And now we're looking forward to this first game against Italy and it's all the time tough.
"Yeah, I think [Italy will be different at the World Cup] because I have the feeling that all the teams are ready. Maybe New Zealand but the rest I don't think so. It's a big match between the second (ranked) team in the world and the 12th team in the world so I think all the teams will be tough and it will be about small details so we're looking forward to playing this game. I have been waiting for this for four years, we are there, we must arrive with a smile on our face and to play our level."