Ryan Elias Ready To Take On England As Wales Turn Up The Heat For World Cup

Wales spent the weekend focusing on their first World Cup warm-up match at home to England this week – and for Ryan Elias that presents a likely opportunity to show he’s the No.1 hooker.

The Scarlets forward was absent with an Achilles injury back in February, when the Six Nations match against the old enemy was almost derailed by a players’ strike in a dispute over delayed contracts.

In the end, the game went ahead and England won 20-10, but now the context is entirely different as both nations flex their muscles in a first World Cup warm-up.

“There has been a huge amount going on in Wales and England with players out of contract and clubs going under, but from a player’s perspective you just want to do your job, which is to play rugby,” said Elias.

“That last game involved close friends of mine, so I was in contact with them during the build-up.

“You’d rather have meetings about rugby and so it didn’t sound as if they had the greatest prep for that game.

“Now, we just want to rip into it again. We are all solely focused on the rugby.”

Wales have lost huge experience with the international retirements of Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Rhys Webb, plus the injury that has ruled out 36-year-old hooker Ken Owens.

That has opened the door to Elias, 28, who has had to battle his rival for the shirt for both club and country.

“I’ve known Ken for years – we went to the same school, played for the same club and I have grown up with him.

“But I’ve got 33 caps and I feel I have a hell of a lot left to contribute. I feel the strongest I have ever been.

“England are going to be like us – fighting desperately for World Cup places, so I’d image it’s going to get pretty tasty.”

As Wales honed their plans for the game, they also paid tribute to Clive Rowlands, the former Wales captain and coach, who died over the weekend at the age of 85.

The Wales defence coach Mike Forshaw, who is with the squad in Turkey for their pre-World Cup training camp, said: “From all the players and staff, we want to send our condolences to the family. He was a great rugby man and he’s been in our thoughts this morning in Turkey.”

Rowlands, who played 14 times for Wales as scrum-half, also managed the British & Irish Lions and served as president of the WRU.

He captained his country on each of his international appearances and led the team as they shared the 1964 Five Nations title with Scotland.

As coach he guided the team to a first Grand Slam in 19 years in 1971, after retiring from playing at 29.

He also led the team to their most successful finish at a World Cup, placing third at the inaugural tournament in 1987, before mastermind victory for the Lions on their tour of Australia two years later.