Wales dealt blow as star Taulupe Faletau is ruled out of the World Cup

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Wales star Taulupe Faletau has been ruled out of the World Cup in Japan after being dealt another cruel injury blow.

The Welsh Rugby Union said the Bath number eight, who has won 72 caps and played in four Tests for the British & Irish Lions, had suffered a collarbone injury.

The WRU added that he will require surgery following what it described as “an innocuous training ground incident”.

In a statement, the WRU said: “Taulupe Faletau has been ruled out of Rugby World Cup contention due to a clavicle injury.

“The injury was sustained in an innocuous training ground incident and will require surgery.

“A prognosis and return to play time-frame will be established after surgery.

“The Wales squad and management would like to wish Taulupe the very best with his recovery.”

Faletau shone for the British & Irish Lions in the series draw with the All Blacks in 2017.

Faletau shone for the British & Irish Lions in the series draw with the All Blacks in 2017.

It is the latest major setback for Faletau, who broke his arm twice last season and has not played for Wales since March 2018.

But he has trained with Wales this summer and was recently part of an intensive two-week camp in the Swiss Alps as he built towards potential World Cup selection.

Only last month, Faletau spoke about his hunger to play again after being sidelined for so long.

The 28-year-old’s absence will be keenly felt, although Wales have considerable back-row resources.

The likes of Ross Moriarty, Josh Navidi, Aaron Shingler, Justin Tipuric and Aaron Wainwright are among those in head coach Warren Gatland’s training squad.

Gatland is due to name his final 31-man World Cup squad in early September, with Wales’ opening game being against Georgia in Toyota City on September 23.

Bath Rugby director Stuart Hooper told the club’s official website: “Any time a player misses out on a major competition is hugely disappointing.

“We are all feeling the impact of this news, especially as it follows a number of unfortunate and frustrating injuries for him.

“We will plan and support Toby’s (Taulupe’s) recovery, making sure it is the very best for him, in order to maximise his successful return to the game.”

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Scotland are not a one-man team, insists string-puller Finn Russell

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Finn Russell has brushed off suggestions Scotland are a one-man team – insisting it will take a collective effort to make their World Cup campaign a success.

Critics of Gregor Townsend’s side claim the Dark Blues only soar when stand-off Russell is on song. But the talismanic playmaker is adamant he is only able to pull off his party tricks of audacious faints and no-look passes with the help of his colleagues.

Scotland will need the Racing 92 star to be at his maverick best if they are to escape the group stages when they travel to Japan in two months’ time.

But Russell says he has no plans to do it all on his own and will instead rely on a support network to help Scotland shine in the land of the rising Sun.

“I’d only been playing professionally for about 18 months, maybe a little more, at the last World Cup in 2015,” said the 26-year-old at the squad’s temporary training base at St Andrew’s Old Course Hotel.

“Now I’ve got five and a bit years under my belt and it is different. I developed as a player, as a man. I’ve matured and got more experience.

“I think the position as a 10 or a 12 means you’re at the heart of the attack so I’ll be trying to help my team out and take the lead on the attacking side.

“As a 10, everyone looks to you for how we can start an attack. I know when I first came into Scotland, I looked to Greig (Laidlaw) because he was one of the experienced ones.

“You have to look at the other folk around you for help. I like that. It does have to be a collective approach.

“No team can rely on one individual. I’ll try and take a lead on the attacking side, but I’m going to be going to my centres, my nines, my full-backs, whatever, and asking them what they think, because they’re doing their job as well.

“I don’t really know how to play wing, so I need to know what they want from me, and they need to know what I want from them.

“I think when the team plays well it’s easy for me, the 10, to be the guy that’s controlling the game. If I’m on my game then it’s going to be easier for them.

“It works hand in hand, but I don’t believe it’s one individual that’s going to get us to the quarters or semis or final, wherever we get to. I think it’s going to have to be everyone on the same page.”

There is certainly evidence to back up those who believe Scotland are at their most dangerous when Russell performs.

March’s Twickenham thriller saw England threaten to blow Townsend’s hesitant line-up away before half-time – only for Russell to urge a change of tactics in the dressing room before spearheading a stunning second-half fight.

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend.

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend.

But if Scotland want to plan for life beyond a pool containing Ireland, Russia, Samoa and the hosts Japan, then he admits he cannot afford the sloppy periods that cost them during this year’s Six Nations.

He said: “I need some consistency, but I’m still going to keep playing the way I’m going to play. At the World Cup with four group games, you need to be at the top of your game to get out of the group.

“I’m just going to make sure I’m in the best shape I can be, and prepared as well as I can for the World Cup.

“I don’t want to look back and think if only I did this or that differently. I’m just going to keep doing the same, but I want to be in the best shape and mentally in the best place I can be for it.”

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Scotland players could be disappointed as Gregor Townsend prepares to swing World Cup axe

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Darcy Graham shone for Scotland during the Six Nations.

Several established Scotland players could be left disappointed as Gregor Townsend prepares to swing the World Cup axe, assistant coach Danny Wilson has warned.

The Dark Blues have stepped up their preparations for the tournament in Japan with a training camp in St Andrews and Wilson says competition has never been fiercer.

Head coach Townsend was forced to adapt during this year’s Six Nations as injuries left his original blueprint in tatters.

But that opened the door for rookies like Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Ritchie, Sam Skinner and Darcy Graham to impress and all took their chance.

Now, with the casualty list clearing, Wilson admits there will be surprises when the current 44-man training squad is slashed to leave the group of 31 who will board September’s flight to the Far East.

He said: “We’re in that nice fluffy time when everyone’s getting on really well because there’s no selection, but that’s around the corner for us.

“I’m seeing a Scotland squad that – touch wood – is all fit and I’m seeing lots of competition for places and an intensity in training.

“Genuinely there’s places up for grabs. The bonus of the Six Nations this year is that players got opportunities off the back of injuries, but those players took those opportunities.

“That gives a real selection headache when players come back fit.

“In Scotland we need that competition and depth, and the bonus from the Six Nations is that we’re developing that.”

Wilson was brought in last year to replace forwards coach Dan McFarland after he was head-hunted for the top job at Ulster.

Under Wilson’s predecessor, the Scotland pack was a well-oiled machine, but it has taken the former Dragons, Scarlets and Cardiff Blues set-piece expert time to get his ideas across.

However, the three-month build-up to Scotland’s first Pool A clash against Ireland in Yokohama on September 22 has given him ample opportunity to get to the bottom of the problems that blighted Townsend’s team as they finished fifth in the Six Nations with just a win and a draw.

He said: “The time makes a huge difference. Before a Test match you’re trying to ram a huge amount in.

“This is far different, like a pre-season, so you’ve got a chance to work on the finer detail.

“Slowly but surely (I’ve been putting my stamp on things). It’s been well documented that during the Six Nations we had a different group in terms of the injuries we had.

“Now to have the likes of John Barclay back in the squad, to work with these guys and see a healthy squad that we didn’t have during the Six Nations, it’s been good for me to build relationships and spend more time on the training pitch.

“During the Six Nations we were number one at scrum time on our own ball, but we need to improve on opposition ball a bit because sometimes we were under pressure.

“Line-out wise, our ball was also pretty good, the drive attack and defence was reasonably good.

“We probably want to affect opposition ball a little more, because perhaps we set a foundation to make sure no-one drove against us, but it affected our ability to steal in the air. We need a balance moving forward.”

Scotland’s prep work for Japan has already started bleeding in aspects that will ready them for the hot, humid conditions they can expect in Japan as Townsend looks to avoid a costly slip.

“Obviously, Gregor having such an eye for detail, we’ve been working on a lot of things,” said Wilson. “We’ve even been training with a wet, slippery ball because of the humidity we can expect in Japan.

“We’ve put in place all sorts of bits and pieces to give ourselves the best chance to settle in quickly.”

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