Tuesday brought the news that Cory Hill’s Rugby World Cup had come to and end with an unfortunately timed injury. Robert Rees looks over Warren Gatland’s remaining lock options and ponders over what it’ll mean for Wales going forward.
Hill’s Rugby World Cup over
The Dragons lock has been sent home following a failure to recover from a fibula stress fracture.
Bradley Davies, 65 caps, is his replacement and he arrived in Japan the following day.
Wales left with strong second row options
Brad Davies will join captain Alun Wyn Jones, Jake Ball and Ospreys teammate Adam Beard. Aaron Shingler is also in the squad to cover the second row if required.
Despite losing Hill to injury and having Beard below 100% the list still reads as one envied by their opposition.
Talismanic leader Jones is set in stone to start providing he is fit. That’s not even up for debate.
Adam Beard has been the favourable partner over the last 12 months, following Hill’s injury but fell foul of an appendix operation just before Wales flew out.
He’s unlikely to be fit to start their second pool game against Australia.
Jake Ball has since taken over the reins and a man of the match performance against Georgia has boosted Gatland’s hopes.
Brad Davies will join up with the squad but may not ease into the 23-man squad to face the Aussies.
With Aaron Shingler covering lock and having spent time on the pitch more recently than Davies he’ll be the candidate for a bench spot, especially due to his back row status.
Welsh locks offer perfect blend of skills
Alun Wyn Jones
The totem leader of the Welsh pack. Energises every man around him and like every great leader appears to be invincible.
A staple at the set piece, often used as a lineout target, immovable around the park and often carrying into the opposition firing line he isn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty.
Having someone who may not be the best in their position in the world at that time but is a true leader no one will question hasn’t been seen since Richie McCaw.
He carries enough passion and guts for anyone to be inspired and that itself raises Wales to another level. Wales are a much poorer side without him leadership qualities.
At 124kg and standing at 6’6″ Jake Ball is a mean lock to stop. A gainline breaking carrier who Wales utilise to the max when he’s on the pitch.
Superbly durable and surprisingly good at offloading for a man of his size Ball has made a name for himself at the Scarlets and subsequently Wales, winning 37 caps.
He adds a much appreciated bulk to the Welsh pack (908kg in their Georgia opening game) and standing in at second or third receiver whilst Wales build phases is his thing.
Under Rob Howley – now Stephen Jones – Wales have looked to build patiently through the phases. This means that the forwards must reload, requiring excellent fitness and a huge drive to keep going against tough teams.
Ball has excelled in this department and will see him partner Jones for the most important pool games whilst Beard regains fitness and the fight for the second starting jersey properly resumes.
A brilliant lineout option for Wales with him towering over most players at a hefty 6’8″.
His immense height and reach also makes him handy at disrupting opposition mauls, something Wales don’t have as effectively from another player.
He’s extremely mobile for someone so big and as such is often involved in the breakdown work, especially if the opposition are utilising quick ball.
Despite his height he only weighs in at 117kg so he doesn’t line up as the first carrier as often, certainly not as a preferable move. but he does go in as the support player if Wales utilise pods.
Returning from his operation should be a formality by round three.
Hill’s replacement comes in with plenty of experience having played in two Rugby World Cups. Likely to feature against Uruguay – who Wales won’t take too lightly following their shock win over Fiji.
Davies offers the most mobile of products by any Welsh lock. Dangerous over the ball and equally as comfortable with it.
He can up the tempo from the bench, the position he’ll likely marshal the most given the better form of the other three locks when fit.
Despite his primary position beaning in the back row Shingler is looked at more favourably due to his versatility.
An excellent lineout target, a powerful carrier and good over the ball makes him a prime suspect to be in the matchday 23 in some capacity.
Expect to see him play a large role but over multiple positions this coming month, even before the knockout stages have begun.
“Main photo credit”