Nine Wales players who must take their chance against England

Wales players who will face France ahead of the Rugby World Cup including sam costelow Max Llewellyn and nicky smith Credit: Alamy

Wales players who will face France ahead of the Rugby World Cup including sam costelow Max Llewellyn and nicky smith Credit: Alamy

Time is running out for players to book their spot in the Wales squad ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

With Warren Gatland’s charges clashing with England first up in their warm-up match, we pick out the players who need to make a good first impression on the pitch.

Gatland has given several players the opportunity to stake their claim, but for these individuals, producing a top performance against the Red Rose is paramount to their chances.


It’s clear that Gatland is looking for something different in his front rowers – he made that clear when he omitted Wyn Jones in his squad – as he opts for more mobility in his pack.

This has led to a recall for Nicky Smith, who features on the bench, as well as three debutants in the other prop positions.

Cardiff props Corey Domachowski and Kieron Assiratti earn starting debuts with ex-England tighthead Henry Thomas on the bench.

Gatland can be a ruthless selector, and with limited opportunities to secure a spot, the quartet need to take the chance with both hands.

It’s a huge opportunity for all the players as Gatland clearly has fresh ideas about how he wants his front rowers to perform, and checking those boxes against England could well secure a ticket to France.

Smith has been sublime in the set pieces for the Ospreys, while the Cardiff scrum was solid last season. They will certainly get a stern Test against Steve Borthwick’s charges.


In a somewhat surprising call, Scarlets youngster Sam Costelow has been granted the opportunity to start against England.

It’s a first start for the 22-year-old after appearances off the bench against New Zealand and Georgia last year.

Wales certainly need to improve their kicking game, and if Costelow can do that against an excellent kicking team, he could elevate himself up the current pecking order.

He is also one of four fly-halves in the squad and the least experienced of the lot. If he is to go to his first World Cup, he will need to impress from the get-go with versatile options in the squad too.

Starting in the playmaking axis with Costelow is the highly-rated Max Llewellyn, who makes his Test debut.

The 24-year-old has been excellent for Cardiff this season and now has the opportunity to make the number 12 jersey his own.

Joe Hawkins started all but one of Wales’ Six Nations matches, but following his move to Exeter Chiefs, he is unavailable for selection for the World Cup. The clash against the Red Rose provides a brilliant litmus Test for Llewellyn, regardless of who he lines up against.

The competition and potential candidates for the number 12 jumper is rife with Keiran Williams, Joe Roberts, Johnny Williams, Nick Tompkins and even Owen Williams options for Gatland.

Llewellyn gets the first shot in the World Cup warm-ups, and it’s essential that he makes the most of it.


With a cloud of doubt over Taulupe Faletau, Gatland will be looking for who could fill his boots if he misses the World Cup.

The veteran number eight has been a favourite of Gatland’s throughout his time as head coach, and understandably so.

While Aaron Wainwright will be filling the jersey this weekend, the likes of Jac Morgan and Taine Plumtree are certainly in the running to fill the void of Faletau.

The trio have a massive opportunity to make their mark and secure a spot in Gatland’s team and even a starting role, particularly Morgan, who could end up leading the side at the Rugby World Cup.

Wainwright is a player that Gatland admires with his skillset and work rate, two big checkpoints for the coach, but as is always the case in Wales, there is an embarrassment of riches in the back-row.

Meanwhile, Plumtree has undoubtedly made an impression in the training camps and is set to debut from the bench.

The former Blues back-rower also checks several boxes for a Gatland-esque loose forward, and producing a strong cameo from the bench against an abrasive side like England will only increase his chances.

READ MORE: Mike Phillips: The ‘public needs’ Wales to succeed at the Rugby World Cup

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