So Warren Gatland has opted to back his big guns, despite several stars carrying injuries or recovering from them.
The New Zealander sprang one or two surprises in his 31-man Wales squad but, ultimately, the players heading into the tournament looks a positive mix of power, pace and craft.
The major issue rightly concerning Welsh fans is the prognosis of the players selected despite being some way short of full fitness.
— EatSleepRugby (@Eat_Sleep_Rugby) August 31, 2015
Alun-Wyn Jones, Samson Lee and Liam Williams are a key trio likely to play pivotal roles, despite question marks against all three as to whether they will even start the opening Pool A game against Uruguay in 20 days.
In 90-cap Jones’ case, he is likely to be out for several weeks after straining medial knee ligaments in the impressive 16-10 friendly win against Ireland in Dublin.
That is of massive concern to Gatland. Not only is the experienced lock a magnificent grafter in the Wales engine room, but it just adds to the headache he is dealing with in terms of Lee and Williams’ fitness.
The prop and wing/full-back are nursing Achilles and foot injuries respectively but both offer too much for their coach to have considered leaving them out.
Not only is Williams’ versatility key, considering Alex Cuthbert’s poor form he will most likely start the first game if fit enough.
The front eight are far more mobile under Gatland. They work harder, hit harder and cover more ground, but sheer power is their obvious strength.
Lee is a scrummaging monster within that powerhouse pack, a match for any team. He is the reason Gatland has not even slightly entertained the idea of a recall for Adam Jones.
Gareth Anscombe has been unlucky to miss out, especially considering the selection of Jones, Williams and Lee despite their injuries.
So too Ross Moriaty (his dad Paul and uncle Richard members of the Wales team at the 1987 World Cup), Ospreys’ James King earning the last spot ahead of the Gloucester back-rower due to his versatility.
The inclusion of Cardiff centre Cory Allen is the biggest shock, having not featured in any of the warm-up games so far, but Bristol’s Matthew Morgan’s selection is inspired, the fly-half/full-back capable of magic off the bench.
Rank outsiders Uruguay named their 31-man World Cup squad on Sunday, including four European-based players.
Fly-half Felipe Berchesi (Carcassonne) and scrum-half Agustin Ormaechea (Mont-de-Marsan) play in the French second division while prop Mario Sagario (Massy) is in the third tier in France.
— Japan Rugby (@JRFURugby) August 31, 2015
Full-back Gaston Mieres plays for Valpolicella in Italy while the rest of the squad is based in Uruguay, apart from prop Alejo Corral of Argentina’s San Isidro.
Uruguay are in Pool A at the World Cup alongside hosts England, Australia, Wales and Fiji.
Meanwhile, Asia’s representative Japan also named their squad, with coach Eddie Jones Monday named a 31-player squad comprising 17 forwards and 14 backs for the Rugby World Cup.
Japan are in Pool B alongside South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and the United States. They kick-off their campaign against the Springboks on 19 September in Brighton.
Forwards: Alejo Corral, Carlos Arboleya, Mateo Sanguinetti, Mario Sagario, Oscar Duran, Nicolas Klappenbach, German Kessler, Santiago Vilaseca, Jorge Zerbino, Mathias Palomeque, Franco Lamanna, Juan Manuel Gaminara, Diego Magno, Alejandro Nieto, Juan de Freitas, Agustin Alonso, Fernando Bascou, Matias Beer
Backs: Agustin Ormaechea, Alejo Duran, Felipe Berchesi, Manuel Blengio, Andres Vilaseca, Joaquin Prada, Alberto Roman, Francisco Bulanti, Santiago Gibernau, Leandro Leivas, Jeronimo Etcheverry, Rodrigo Silva, Gaston Mieres
Forwards: Justin Ives, Shoji Ito, Keita Inagaki, Hitoshi Ono, Takeshi Kizu, Hendrik Tui, Luke Thompson, Kensuke Hatakeyama, Michael Broadhurst, Ryu Holani, Shota Horie, Shinya Makabe, Amanaki Mafi, Masataka Mikami, Hiroshi Yamashita, Hiroki Yuhara, Michael Leitch.
Backs: Craig Wing, Kosei Ono, Ayumu Goromaru, Male Sau, Harumichi Tatekawa, Fumiaki Tanaka, Yu Tamura, Toshiaki Hirose, Atsushi Hiwasa, Kenki Fukuoka, Yoshikazu Fujita, Karne Hesketh, Kotaro Matsushima, Akihito Yamada.
Wales head coach Warren Gatland admits that he has some “tough calls” ahead as he applies the finishing touches to his 31-man Rugby World Cup squad.
Gatland’s squad will be announced at the Millennium Stadium on Monday, and he acknowledges that “24 or 25 players” have already booked their places.
But the New Zealander also needs to make decisions on players like wing Liam Williams and fly-half Gareth Anscombe, who are both currently sidelined through injury, although prop Samson Lee appears firmly on course to make the final group following five months out because of Achilles tendon trouble.
“Samson is making brilliant progress,” said Gatland, whose team continued World Cup preparations with an impressive 16-10 victory against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.
“He has been involved in live scrummaging, and he is running. We just need to get him fit, and hopefully he doesn’t break down.”
Williams is recovering from a foot injury, while Anscombe recently suffered an ankle problem during training, and Gatland must decide whether or not he can potentially go into the tournament with any players who might be unavailable for the opening Pool A flurries.
“Liam Williams is ahead of where we expected him to be, but he’s still probably not going to be involved for the first game or two, or the first game anyway,” Gatland added.
“The medical team are seeing where Gareth Anscombe is at, and that is a two or three-week injury as well. We are going to have to make a couple of tough calls on players.
“You might be able to carry one or two, but you’ve got to be careful how many injured players you go into the World Cup with. We have discussed as a coaching team what we think, and we have probably got 24 or 25 players nailed down.”
If Williams and Anscombe are ruled out of the selection equation, then it could open the door for 23-year-old Bristol back Matthew Morgan in a squad that looks set to comprise 14 backs and 17 forwards, although Morgan’s impressive game-breaking prowess could make him an automatic choice.
Exeter prop Tomas Francis, who enjoyed a strong Test debut against Ireland, and Gloucester flanker Ross Moriarty both look set to make the final cut, with Gatland needing to lose seven more players from a training group that was reduced earlier this month when casualties included British & Irish Lions trio Richard Hibbard, Mike Phillips and James Hook.