Wales relishing forward battle that awaits them in World Cup opener, says Tomas Francis

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  • Tomas Francis says Wales are relishing the inevitable forward battle that awaits them in their Rugby World Cup opener against Georgia.

    Wales know from experience just how tough the Georgians can be up front, surviving a major score during the 2017 autumn Tests.

    A much-changed Wales team ultimately prevailed 13-6 in Cardiff, but Georgia’s set-piece excellence shone through as they pushed their opponents all the way.

    “Georgia love their set-piece and that will be a good challenge, but we want to take them on and not shy away from that,” Wales prop Francis said, ahead of next Monday’s Pool D encounter in Toyota City.

    “You know what’s coming. It will be about the basics.

    “Georgia will want to scrum and maul, and if you shy away from that you are giving them a head-start, so we have to take them on and be confident.”

    Wales’ scrummaging work came under the spotlight in recent World Cup warm-up games against England and Ireland.

    Wales lifted a third Grand Slam under Gatland in March, but have lost three of their four warm-up games.

    Wales lifted a third Grand Slam under Gatland in March, but have lost three of their four warm-up games.

    Their scrum struggled to make an impression, although Francis was at the forefront of a much-needed improved display when Wales lost to Ireland in a Dublin return fixture on September 7.

    All 20 teams at the World Cup in Japan will operate under a World Rugby scrummaging law amendment that was implemented this summer.

    It is aimed at ending so-called “axial loading”, with the practice of front-row forwards placing their heads on to opposition players’ head or shoulders between the call of ‘bind’ and ‘set’ on scrummaging engagement now outlawed.

    “With the new scrum laws, maybe we were trying to read too much into it,” Francis added.

    “In the Six Nations we were very happy with the scrum, and we’ve probably been focusing on it more now that there have been a few changes and it hasn’t quite gone how we would have liked.

    “Interpretations of the law can be different. We probably scaled right back to the letter of the law, but now we’ve learnt what the referees actually want.

    “It’s not that they are not refereeing it well, but we’ve just learnt how it works. It always takes time when a law change works, and we are ready for that now.

    “It (law amendment) just means there is no weight bearing through your head.

    “It got to the stage where if you did put weight through your neck, you had to match the weight, and now you need more balance. There is more of a ‘set’ now. There is less pressure through your neck, which is what they’ve done it for.”

    Exeter tighthead Francis will be an integral part of Wales’ World Cup challenge, having developed impressively from a Test rookie at the last tournament, which he arrived at with just two international appearances behind him.

    He is now moving towards 50 caps, but remains modest about his achievements.

    “I’ve been lucky that Gats (Wales head coach Warren Gatland) has kept on picking me,” he said.

    “All you can do is your best, and Exeter have gone well, so it’s been easier to keep a good run going there and keep playing.

    “I feel good for this tournament, but (fellow Wales prop) Dillon Lewis is playing well, and you never know. If you get complacent, you will lose the shirt.”