Wales coach Warren Gatland has made three changes to his side’s lineup for their do-or-die clash with South Africa.
Star fullback Liam Williams has been ruled out for the remainder of the Rugby World Cup following an ankle injury sustained in an accidental collision during training. His place will be taken by the reliable Leigh Halfpenny.
The experienced Halfpenny has made one start in the tournament – against final pool stage opponents Uruguay – and went on as a replacement against Georgia.
Better news for the squad is the return of Jonathan Davies, considered by many to be the best outside centre in the world. Davies will resume his midfield partnership with New Zealand-born Hadleigh Parkes, which sees Owen Watkin drop to the bench in the spot that Halfpenny occupied last weekend.
Williams’ injury is just one more complication for Gatland’s side, who are chasing their first-ever World Cup.
Toby Faletau was never an option for the tournament after suffering a collarbone injury in August.
Flyhalf Gareth Anscombe suffered a similar season-ending fate during one of Wales’ Rugby World Cup warm-up fixtures against England, which has seen Dan Biggar reclaim his starting jersey.
Fans will just be happy that Davies has recovered from the knee injury which saw him withdraw late from his side’s quarter-final match with France.
Somewhat ironically, Halfpenny missed the 2015 tournament through injury, with Anscombe starting in his place. We now appear to have come full circle.
Hooker Ken Owens knows what to expect from an exceptionally well-conditioned Springboks side.
“Hugely physical. Everyone has spoken about that being bred in them,” said Owens. “They’re a quality outfit. You can see the growth in their squad over the past couple of seasons under Rassie Erasmus.”
“They’re a very well-coached team. They’re a quality side. They’ve had some big results and gone to New Zealand [earlier this year] and got a draw.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 24, 2019
“They’ve definitely improved over the last two or three years. They’ve got a pretty settled squad. Fortunately, we’ve won the last four against them but form goes out of the window and records are there to be broken and all the rest of it. We’re just looking forward to the opportunity to play in a World Cup semi-final, play against one of the best teams in the world and hopefully get a result.”
Wales’ fixture with South Africa will mark halfback Gareth Davies’ 50th Test cap while captain Alun Wyn Jones will become the second-most capped player of all time with 142 to his name (133 for Wales and 9 for the British and Irish Lions).
The match kicks off from Yokohama Stadium at 6:00PM JST on Sunday evening.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies, Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric, Aaron Wainwright, Alun Wyn Jones (c), Jake Ball, Tomas Francis, Ken Owens, Wyn Jones. Reserves: Elliot Dee, Rhys Carre, Dillon Lewis, Adam Beard, Aaron Shingler, Tomos Williams, Rhys Patchell, Owen Watkin.
The Springboks have lost an outside back of their own for Sunday’s clash, with pocket-rocket Cheslin Kolbe ruled out of the game:
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