Gatland wants Wales ‘rugby-ready’ as World Cup preparations ramp up
Outhalf Rhys Patchell will get first start in 15 months against Ireland in Dublin
Rhys Patchell will make his first start for Wales in 15 months in Saturday’s World Cup warm-up match against Ireland. Photograph: Harry Trump/Getty Images
Warren Gatland says it is important that Wales are “rugby-ready” as they move towards their World Cup opener against Georgia.
Wales complete a busy tournament warm-up schedule by tackling Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.
And head coach Gatland will parade many of his big names, including five Lions Test players.
There are eight survivors from the starting XV that secured Six Nations title and Grand Slam success by beating Ireland in Cardiff just over five months ago.
And 15 changes following last weekend’s home defeat against Ireland include a start for Scarlets flyhalf Rhys Patchell.
There are also opportunities in Dublin, meanwhile, for scrumhalf Tomos Williams, prop Wyn Jones and hooker Elliot Dee.
“This is our final preparation match, so it is important we get enough rugby into us and get rugby-ready ahead of our RWC opener against Georgia, which is just over two weeks away,” Gatland said.
“It is important we hit the ground running in Japan and we give the players enough time on the field.
“Saturday is the first time these players would have taken to the field as members of the RWC squad.
“It has been a big week, and it is a big opportunity for players to put their hand up and secure spots for the starting XV in Japan.”
Patchell endured an injury-hit campaign last season, suffering from concussion issues and then a hamstring problem, and he has not made a Test start for almost 15 months.
Those setbacks stalled his international hopes, but he delivered an impressive try-scoring display off the bench five days ago.
And that performance helped him nudge out Jarrod Evans for a place in Gatland’s 31-man World Cup squad.
Wales kick off their World Cup campaign against Georgia in Toyota City, Japan, on September 23rd, which is followed by a potentially-pivotal Pool D appointment with Australia in Tokyo six days later.
WALES: Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets); George North (Ospreys), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets), Josh Adams (Cardiff Blues); Rhys Patchell (Scarlets), Tomos Williams (Cardiff Blues); Wyn Jones (Scarlets), Elliot Dee (Dragons), Tomas Francis (Exeter); Jake Ball (Scarlets), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, capt); Aaron Wainwright (Dragons), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Ross Moriarty (Dragons).
Replacements: Ken Owens (Scarlets), Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Blues), Adam Beard (Ospreys), Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues), Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints), Liam Williams (Saracens).