Cory Hill has welcomed Wales’ demanding Rugby World Cup warm-up programme and predicted they will be “flat-out” Test matches.
Wales play England and Ireland home and away in the next month, starting with a trip to Twickenham next Sunday.
It is a testing schedule which has raised eyebrows in some quarters, and Wales coach Warren Gatland hopes history does not repeat itself with key players lost to injury.
Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb both missed the 2015 World Cup after being injured in the final pre-tournament game four years ago.
“That’s rugby union,” Hill said philosophically. “You’re going to get injuries no matter what games you play.
“You can still pick up knocks if you play nations lower down (the rankings).
“Playing England and Ireland is the biggest challenge we could have before the World Cup.
“They will be flat-out Test matches against teams in the top five in the world. They are local derbies as well, so there’s a little bit more to add to it.
“We certainly won’t be under-cooked going to the World Cup because I’m sure everyone will get game-time in those matches.”
Hill has not played since his try-scoring heroics during the Six Nations victory over England in February.
It was a bittersweet moment for the Dragons lock forward as he badly damaged an ankle in the act of scoring.
“It was a pretty special moment,” said Hill, who captained Wales at the Under-20 World Cup in 2012.
“But it probably lasted for 30 seconds until I realised I’d done the injury.
“You can’t really complain. I’d had a pretty good run before that and you’ve got to deal with it.
“You’ve got to get yourself in the right frame of mind to get back out there and fit again.
“I’m ready to go now after putting it in during pre-season and it would be nice to play England again.”
Thank you for all of your messages of support. Disappointed with how things have turned out, and to miss out on the chance to represent Wales at RWC 2019 - but it wasn’t meant to be. Wishing the rest of the squad every success going forward. See you soon. pic.twitter.com/ffZLJcsQxa— Taulupe Faletau (@taulupe) August 2, 2019
The 27-year-old is almost certain to make Wales’ 31-man World Cup squad in Japan next month.
As well as his strong claims to be skipper Alun-Wyn Jones’ second-row partner, Hill also provides a back-row option at six as Wales seek to build on Grand Slam glory and a 14-game unbeaten streak.
That flexibility could be crucial, especially as British & Irish Lions back-rower Taulupe Faletau was ruled out of the World Cup this week with a collarbone injury.
“I’ll play tight-head if they want me to,” Hill said.
“I played six for the Dragons for four or five games over the Christmas derbies and the European games and I enjoyed my time there.
“It’s another feather to the cap I suppose and if I’m needed to cover six I will do it. But I’m concentrating on lock at the moment.”
Elliot Daly has ruled out a de-escalation in the England v Wales rivalry when the old rivals clash at Twickenham next Sunday.
It is the opening instalment in a run of four warm-up Tests leading into the Rugby World Cup and the first of a double header, home and away, against Warren Gatland’s Grand Slam champions.
While the matches are used to tune-up teams in advance of the global showpiece, Daly insists the enmity between England and Wales means only one thing.
“It’s a Test match so intensity will be brought. It will definitely be similar to a Six Nations game,” Daly said.
“It’s an international. You can’t be talking about not going for those games, especially as there is only four games before the World Cup starts.
“Every time we play Wales it is a brilliant atmosphere and you are always going to get good support. It will be a great crowd vibe and it’s always a great game.
“I have played Wales in an end-of-season game in June so I’m pretty sure it won’t be different to when we are playing them in Six Nations.”
Eddie Jones names his final World Cup squad in between the two fixtures with Daly, the Saracens-bound full-back who also covers centre and wing, a certainty to be departing for Japan on September 8.
As one of England’s most dangerous players, only injury can prevent him from being involved, yet the 26-year-old still intends going full throttle during the warm-up games.
“Everyone at the moment is actually really looking forward to these games to show what we can do,” he said.
“We want to get that team cohesion we have been looking for during training in the last few weeks.
“If you start thinking about not getting injured then that is when you tend to do get injured and stuff doesn’t seem to go as you would wish.
“The way we are looking at these games is to really improve before the World Cup and put our best foot forward.”
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.”
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.”