Gat­land gives War­bur­ton go at blind­side

The Daily Telegraph - Rugby World Cup - - Sport Rugby World Cup 2015 - By Tom Cary

Wales head coach War­ren Gat­land sug­gested he al­ready knew his start­ing line-up for next Satur­day’s match against Eng­land as he named a team shorn of big names for to­mor­row’s clash with Pool A min­nows Uruguay. But the New Zealan­der did throw in a curve­ball, with cap­tain, Sam War­bur­ton, named at blind­side flanker and Justin Tipuric at open­side.

The de­ci­sion to start both War­bur­ton and Tipuric took some ob­servers by sur­prise as it risks reignit­ing the thorny old de­bate about where War­bur­ton is best uti- lised in the back row and whether Gat­land should al­ways find a way to ac­com­mo­date his cap­tain and Tipuric, who some con­sider to be Wales’s best No 7.

Gat­land, who has never started a match with both War­bur­ton and Tipuric, ad­mit­ted there was a chance that the tac­tic could be reprised later in the tour­na­ment.

“There’s a chance,” Gat­land said. “It’s been widely spec­u­lated about, the qual­ity of those two play­ers. Per­son­ally, I thought Sam was man of match against Italy [in Wales’ fi­nal warm-up game]. I think that would have taken pres­sure off us if he’d got MOTM, but peo­ple want to leave that de­bate [about who Wales’s best open­side is] open.

“We’re in a great po­si­tion to pick two world-class play­ers in that po­si­tion. Let’s see how Sun­day goes and we’ll start think­ing about the fol­low­ing week.”

Gat­land’s ad­mis­sion that he al- ready knew what team he would pick to face Eng­land, how­ever, strongly sug­gested that he will re­vert to what he deems to be his strong­est team, with Dan Ly­di­ate re­turn­ing at blind­side and War­bur­ton shuffling back to open­side for the match at Twick­en­ham.

Ge­orge North, Alun Wyn Jones, Jamie Roberts, Dan Big­gar and Taulupe Fale­tau, all of whom have been omit­ted from Wales’s match day squad to­mor­row, are also al­most cer­tain to re­turn. Asked whether there were still places up for grabs against Eng­land, Gat­land said: “Not re­ally, no.”

Two play­ers who will cer­tainly be look­ing to hang on to their places next Satur­day are Liam Wil­liams and Sam­son Lee, both of whom make their re­turn from long-term in­jury. Gat­land added that he was con­fi­dent prop Lee was fully fit af­ter six months out with a rup­tured Achilles.

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