Sil­ver lin­ing of in­juries is that Wales will be a bet­ter at­tack­ing side

Call-ups for Liam and Scott Wil­liams sharpen both the side’s vi­sion and their cut­ting edge

The Daily Telegraph - Rugby World Cup - - Sport Rugby World Cup 2015 - JONATHAN DAVIES

It should not be all doom and gloom in Wales. The in­juries suf­fered by Leigh Half­penny and Rhys Webb – and we should not for­get that my name­sake Jonathan Davies is out of the event too – are cruel, and all three will be missed, but these things hap­pen in sport and you just have to get on with it. There re­ally is no al­ter­na­tive.

And you know what? It may be that Wales are a bet­ter at­tack­ing side be­cause of these en­forced changes. For Liam Wil­liams and Scott Wil­liams, the re­place­ments for Half­penny and Davies, have been Wales’s most dan­ger­ous at­tack­ers in the past year.

I have said for a long time that Half­penny should be on the wing, with Liam Wil­liams at full-back. Wil­liams will get his chance now and I ex­pect that, once he has got some game time af­ter his foot op­er­a­tion, he will show peo­ple what Wales have been miss­ing in counter-at­tack­ing cre­ativ­ity.

Of course, Half­penny’s kick­ing will be missed, es­pe­cially from dis­tance, be­cause he is the best in the world. And I am sure the op­po­si­tion’s at­ti­tude will change. Be­fore, they would not have dared con­cede a penalty near the half­way line. Now they might not be quite so wor­ried.

That is not to say that fly-half Dan Biggar, who is be­ing rested to­mor­row against Uruguay but is def­i­nitely first choice, can­not kick. Of course, he can. He is a fine place-kicker with a high suc­cess rate (86 per cent in the Pro 12 last sea­son for the Ospreys), but he just does not quite have the dis­tance that Half­penny does.

What I do know, though, is that Biggar will not be af­fected by the dual role of con­trol­ling the game from 10 and the goal-kick­ing du­ties. Eigh­teen months ago I would not have been so cer­tain about that, even though he has al­ways done both for the Ospreys, be­cause he was more easily dis­tracted. He has ma­tured and is now the key fig­ure in the Wales back line.

Scott Wil­liams will also thrive, even though he will be play­ing at out­side cen­tre once Jamie Roberts re­turns for the Eng­land game. He is just so sharp go­ing for­ward.

As for scrum-half, Webb has been bril­liant, but it should be re­mem­bered that only 12 months ago Gareth Davies was ahead of him in the peck­ing or­der.

In­juries played their part and Webb took his chance, but Davies might sur­prise a lot of peo­ple. Two sea­sons ago he was the lead­ing try scorer in the Pro 12, with Webb tak­ing that man­tle last sea­son.

Will Wales play dif­fer­ently

be­cause of these changes? I am not sure they will al­ter their gen­eral style, which has been so suc­cess­ful un­der War­ren Gat­land, but I hope that they adapt a lit­tle bit and show more va­ri­ety in at­tack.

They will surely play with more width and am­bi­tion than usual against Uruguay be­cause they will need to rack up the points in case the pool comes down to points dif­fer­ence. But I do not ex­pect them to show too much ahead of the Eng­land game.

Which brings us on to the mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion: who will win this ‘Pool of Death’? Well, firstly it is such a shame that three such good sides are in the same pool. That can­not be right. And se­condly it is not just a case of me be­ing loyal to Wales when I say that it is just too dif­fi­cult to pre­dict.

That was the case when the pool was drawn and it re­mains so now. Yes, even be­fore their in­juries, I would have said that Wales were third favourites, sim­ply be­cause they have not beaten Aus­tralia in their past 10 matches and be­cause Eng­land are so hard to beat at Twick­en­ham.

But this is no or­di­nary Welsh side. I am cer­tain that on their day they can beat Eng­land and Aus­tralia. Eng­land and Aus­tralia will know that, too and that is why it is so dif­fi­cult to pre­dict.

Wales can­not af­ford any more in­juries, though. You only had to look at what hap­pened this week when in­jured wing Eli Walker was re­placed by a back-row for­ward in Ross Mo­ri­arty. It did not seem log­i­cal, con­sid­er­ing that Walker had re­placed Half­penny. But Gareth An­scombe is in­jured and James Hook can­not play on the wing, and the man­age­ment clearly thought the next batch of play­ers were not up to the task.

It might be Eng­land’s tour­na­ment but Wales is also very proud to be host­ing matches, and there is great ex­cite­ment here, es­pe­cially for the home pool matches against Uruguay and Fiji. Whether peo­ple will pay the prices for the other games in Cardiff, we will have to see.

But this is a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity for north­ern­hemi­sphere rugby to in­crease its pop­u­lar­ity. When I played in the very first Rugby World Cup in 1987, when we ar­rived in Aus­tralia the cus­toms of­fi­cers asked us why we were there. When we said that we were com­ing to play in a World Cup, they were as­tounded.

“What World Cup?” they were ask­ing. You will not find that hap­pen­ing now. The way the com­pe­ti­tion has grown has been in­cred­i­ble. I can only see that in­creas­ing in the com­ing weeks.

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