Warren Gatland will name his squad to face England this Friday as the Kiwi looks to go out on top before heading down under to coach the Gallagher Chiefs.
Robert Rees picks out the likely 31 men that’ll be heading to Japan.
Wales World Cup squad
With five back three players set to be named for the trip to Japan later this year there becomes a real battle for the spots.
Four names are pretty much nailed on with George North and Josh Adams proven try-scorers. Liam Williams is one of the best naturally attacking players in the world and then his full back partner Leigh Halfpenny will be travelling.
That leaves just one spot.
Owen Lane has been great in patches for the Cardiff Blues last season but was hampered by injury.
Steff Evans became out of favour with the prospective Welsh coach Wayne Pivac and Jonah Holmes hasn’t quite hit his highest form yet.
That leaves the Cardiff Blues speedster Hallam Amos as the final player.
Predicted squad: George North, Liam Williams, Josh Adams, Leigh Halfpenny, Hallam Amos.
With four major options, Gatland is likely to take three of those to the World Cup.
Scarlets’ duo Jon Davies and Hadleigh Parkes are set to travel, leaving it to the Ospreys pairing of Scott Williams and Owen Watkin to fight it out for the final spot.
Recent form tells us that Watkin is more likely to go having played a major role in the Wales Grand Slam winning squad and filling in when Williams’ injury fell upon him.
Predicted squad: Jon Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Owen Watkin.
Gareth Anscombe and Dan Biggar are the likely candidates to be on that flight out to Japan, but Rhys Patchell will stand a fighting chance due to his versatility.
Being able to cover full back is a great asset to have, but that value will have dropped due to Halfpenny’s rise to fitness.
Jarrod Evans is the fourth option but despite a solid campaign with the Blues he hasn’t jumped into the red of Wales regularly enough.
Predicted squad: Gareth Anscombe, Dan Biggar.
With three scrum halves in the training squad it’s likely that Gatland will take them all.
Aled and Gareth Davies and Tomos Williams have all impressed in recent campaigns for Wales and clubs.
Each adding something a little bit different to the squad Wales will be sure to switch them around in the pool stage to ensure maximum freshness for the knock-outs, shall they reach them.
Predicted squad: Aled Davies, Gareth Davies, Tomos Williams.
A lot of youthful talent will be competing for a spot in this year’s World Cup squad.
Loosehead Rhys Carre stands an outside chance following an impressive season at Cardiff that saw him make a move to Saracens ahead of this season.
He’ll face stiff opposition for one of the three loosehead spots available though. Rob Evans, Wyn Jones and Nicky Smith are all established to some extent in the international scene, more so than Carre, who has blossomed at age grade.
On the tighthead side Exeter’s Tomas Francis leads the way alongside Samson Lee. Both powerful scrummagers who offer a strong presence in the defensive gameplan Wales thrive upon.
The final spot will be battled out between Dillon Lewis and Leon Brown. With fewer injuries under his belt and a strong start to his international career it would seem that Lewis is the prime candidate to get the sixth prop spot.
Predicted squad: Nicky Smith, Rob Evans, Wyn Jones, Tomas Francis, Samson Lee, Dillon Lewis.
Like the scrum half position, there are just three hookers in the training squad, and all are expected to travel to Japan.
When fit Ken Owens will lead the charge. The Scarlets leader has been phenomenal for region and country in recent years and as such cemented himself as one of the world’s best in his position.
His versatility and prowess around the field are hard to beat and as such regional counterpart Ryan Elias and Elliot Dee will have a battle on their hands to prise the shirt from Owens.
Predicted squad: Ken Owens, Ryan Elias, Elliot Dee.
Despite taking five locks to the 2015 World Cup Wales could be set to name as few as three out and out locks in this year’s squad.
The key to the selection is player versatility and could hinge on Aaron Shingler’s availability.
His option to play at both second and back row enable him to be selected as cover for both. However he will need to impress in the coming Under Armour Series as he lacks international game time due to injury in recent months.
Alun Wyn Jones is always the first name down on any teamsheet that involves him and he’s likely to be partnered by Cory Hill or Adam Beard.
Both of whom have become solid partners to Jones in recent years.
They’ll see off the likes of Jake Ball and Brad Davies as well as Seb Davies who has gone out of favour with Gatland in recent games.
Predicted squad: Alun Wyn Jones, Cory Hill, Adam Beard, Aaron Shingler (Back row/lock cover)
Justin Tipuric will be one of the certainties of the squad. The openside creates turnovers and allows space for the Welsh attack.
He’ll be joined by both Josh Navidi and Ross Moriarty. Both of whom can play eight and blindside. However, there is a worry on Navidi’s game time following an elbow dislocation in March.
Young Dragons star Aaron Wainwright will be set to make the 31-man cut following some tremendous form both internationally and domestically.
The final spot is the most open. James Davies can wreak havoc at the breakdown and is dangerous in open play whereas you have Dan Lydiate who is much more methodical and defensively astute.
Thomas Young seems a favourable candidate following a great season with Wasps but has not long returned after recovering from a foot injury.
Ollie Griffiths is also a contender but not having any game time following a torn muscle back in the spring he seems unlikely to feature.
Dan Lydiate would seem the choice that Gatland will plug for in this scenario.
Predicted squad: Justin Tipuric, Aaron Wainwright, Ross Moriarty, Dan Lydiate, Josh Navidi.
Warren Gatland will name his Wales World Cup squad at 11am on Friday 9th August.
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