Feet Up For Wales as They Check Out The Aussies And Fijians

Wales have finished their World Cup warm-up matches, so they can spend this weekend with their feet up, checking out the opposition.

Warren Gatland’s squad will be able to view two of their Pool C rivals in Australia and Fiji, who are both in action.

Fiji take on England at Twickenham, where Courtney Lawes will captain the Red Roses on his 100th cap, while hooker Theo Dan makes his first start.

Lock Will Skelton will lead Australia for the first time when he captains an inexperienced team against hosts France in the Wallabies’ final warm-up fixture in Paris on Sunday, a daunting prospect for a side yet to win this year.

Coach Eddie Jones has ditched his established players for the World Cup and pinned hopes on the exuberance of youth after Australia lost all four games since he returned to the helm for a second stint in charge this season.

The starting XV has 258 caps between them while 12 of the matchday squad of 23 are sitting on less than 10, the perfect illustration of their lack of experience at international level.

“We are a young side, who is ambitious and in the process of developing our game,” Jones said.

“To play against the tournament hosts in front of a massive crowd at the venue for the (World Cup) final is perfect preparation for us.”

It has been a difficult build-up to the tournament for Jones, who has had a testy relationship with the media over his trumpeting of the team’s improvement, which has yet to be reflected in victories.

One Wales player who has seen it all before – and knows how to gauge the strength of teams – is flanker Dan Lydiate, who played at the 2011 World Cup and the 2015 version, but missed the 2019 tournament through injury.

The 33-year-old 70-cap forward is determined to claim a place in the starting line-up in France, which would be some achievement given he made his World Cup debut against South Africa 12 years ago.

He adds: “When we have trained, we have had two competitive packs going at each other tooth and claw, literally every session.

“It can only bring out the best in us. There will certainly be some headaches for the coaches when they do the final selection.

“There is uncertainty in not knowing where you lie in the pecking order but it’s not a bad thing because it brings out the best in players.”

Lydiate’s former region, the Ospreys, have confirmed they are to play their home United Rugby Championship (URC) game against the Sharks at Harlequins’ home ground, The Stoop, on Friday, 3 November.

It is the same weekend Wales are due to face the Barbarians at the Principality Stadium.

URC chief executive Martin Anayi says the competition is “very happy” to support the initiative as “rugby needs to embrace new ideas and innovative events”.

He added: “In addition to those who travel from Wales, we are fully aware of the large URC fanbases living in London and we hope that the interest from Welsh and South African supporters in London can make this a really special event.”