Five key players to Wales’ Rugby World Cup chances
Wales, 14/1 with Coral to win the Rugby World Cup, need all their players at the top of their game to be sure of coming through a tough Pool A with Australia and Six Nations rivals England to contend with.
But out of a 47-man strong training squad, just who will Warren Gatland chose as he whittles the roster down to 31 to take forward to the first warm-up match against Ireland? We pick five key players to Welsh hopes.
Nailed on to make the cut, Northampton Saints winger North became the youngest-ever try-scorer at the 2011 edition of the Rugby World Cup. At 6ft 4in, he is surprisingly skilful, and able to sidestep opponents without breaking stride.
North’s natural ability is sure to prove useful in the upcoming World Cup. A man to keep a close eye on, he has been compared to Usain Bolt after beating Australia in a 60m run to the try-line during the 2013 British and Irish Lions Tour.
A man who takes control of every game, leads the other players and gives everything. Ospreys lock Jones has been described as a workhorse of rugby with a great deal of experience under his belt. Recently racking up a decade of service to the Swansea side, he became captain in 2010.
Skippering the British and Irish Lions during their last Tour and earning 89 caps for Wales so far, Jones has three Six Nations triumphs, including two Grand Slams. With Ospreys, he has tasted four Celtic League titles and the LV Cup.
Fly-half Biggar is coming into his first Rugby World Cup after 33 caps, and his strong kicking alone explains why he should earn his place on Gatland’s roster. Jones’ Ospreys clubmate also possesses excellent organisational skills on the field. Biggar also works well with our next pick…
Yet another Wales international plucked from Ospreys, scrum-half Webb has been a big try-scorer ever since first setting foot on the pitch back in 2006 at Bridgend. He represents the best all-round talent available to Gatland, happy to kick and no slouch when it comes to making big tackles.
Like Biggar, Webb is set to make his Rugby World Cup bow this autumn, but was part of the victorious sevens roster that took the global title back to Wales from Dubai in 2009.
Scarlets hooker Owens may have been injured earlier this year, but a player of his vast experience cannot be ignored and will be keen to prove he is fully fit ahead of the World Cup. A strong leader, especially in the scrum, he has 27 caps for Wales, debuting at the last edition of this tournament, as a replacement against Namibia, and was an unsung hero of their 2012 Six Nations Grand Slam side.
Wales, a nifty 9/4 to top Pool A, are abundant with talent, so they are a team to look out for at this year’s Rugby World Cup.