Wales sur­prise as rookie Lane is called up to squad

Un­capped wing re­places in­jured for­ward Na­vidi Shock pick sparked by con­cerns over cen­tres

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby World Cup - in Tokyo By Tom Cary

Wales have handed a shock call-up to Cardiff Blues’ un­capped winger Owen Lane five days out from their World Cup semi-fi­nal against South Africa.

Lane, who is just 21, re­places Josh Na­vidi in the 31-man squad af­ter the back rower was yes­ter­day ruled out of the rest of the tour­na­ment with the ham­string in­jury he picked up in Sun­day’s quar­ter-fi­nal win against France.

Lane left Cardiff yes­ter­day morn­ing to join up with War­ren Gat­land’s squad in Ja­pan.

Na­vidi sus­tained a grade-two tear dur­ing Sun­day’s 20-19 quar­ter­fi­nal win over France. But with plenty of back-row cover ahead of Sun­day’s semi-fi­nal against South

Africa in Yoko­hama, and with con­cerns over Hadleigh Parkes and Jonathan Davies in the cen­tres, head coach Gat­land ad­mit­ted that he was veer­ing to­wards se­lect­ing a back.

Scott Wil­liams, who has 58 caps for Wales, was favourite to get the nod, as by far the most ex­pe­ri­enced op­tion. But he only re­cently re­turned from a long-term back in­jury, so his fit­ness and form might have been a con­cern.

Wil­liams has made three Pro14 ap­pear­ances this sea­son, scor­ing against Benet­ton on Oct 12.

But Gat­land ap­pears to have gone for Lane in­stead, mean­ing if Parkes and Davies are ruled out of Sun­day’s semi-fi­nal, Wales might have to play Owen Watkin and Ge­orge North in the mid­field. Gat­land stressed that he ex­pected both Parkes and Davies to be fit.

“We’ll be look­ing to bring in a re­place­ment [for Na­vidi] but we’ve just got to go through that process, go through World Rugby at the mo­ment and send some stuff through to them and for them to agree for a re­place­ment to come out,” Gat­land said af­ter the squad flew from Oita to Tokyo and checked in to their ho­tel.

“We haven’t made a de­ci­sion [on who] yet. We’ve just got to wait un­til we get that ap­proval from World Rugby and then look to bring some­one in.”

Gat­land said that Na­vidi, one of the squad’s lead­ers, would most likely re­main in Ja­pan for moral sup­port. “It’s dis­ap­point­ing for him. Hope­fully, we will keep him out here. Ob­vi­ously he loses his [tour­na­ment] ac­cred­i­ta­tion, but since he’s gone so far in the tour­na­ment it will be nice for him to stay out for the next cou­ple of weeks.

“We’re go­ing through that with him. It’s dis­ap­point­ing for him as he’s been in­flu­en­tial and im­por­tant for us in the last year. It’s dis­ap­point­ing to have a player ruled out but, in say­ing that, th­ese games are so phys­i­cal and to have only one player ruled out at this stage is a real pos­i­tive for us.”

Gat­land said his squad were oth­er­wise in good health, al­beit there were a few “sore” bod­ies in the wake of the France game.

“It will be a light re­cov­ery ses­sion and then our big train­ing day will be on Wed­nes­day,” he said. “We’ve been pretty lucky [with in­juries] and that’s been the whole ex­pe­ri­ence since 2015 – about cre­at­ing depth in the squad and try­ing to keep ev­ery­one as healthy as we pos­si­bly can.”

Wales were far from their best in a laboured per­for­mance against France.

Gat­land said: “We’ve got to park last night and say we’ve played our get-out-of-jail card and get ex­cited about this week­end,” adding that this was the big­gest chance Wales have ever had to make his­tory at a World Cup.

“I think it is,” he said. “We’ve got a pretty clean bill of health in terms of the squad and play­ers to choose from.

“You get th­ese op­por­tu­ni­ties once in a life­time, po­ten­tially, and you’ve got to grab them with both hands and make the most of it.

“It’s im­por­tant that we pre­pare well this week and let the oc­ca­sion take care of it­self.

“The mo­ti­va­tion for staff that are leav­ing, and the play­ers, who may have their last op­por­tu­ni­ties to leave noth­ing on the ta­ble and make the most of their chances. It’s about hav­ing no re­grets and that’s the mes­sage of this week.

“I have two games left and I might never be in­volved in in­ter­na­tional rugby again. That’s a lot of mo­ti­va­tion. For a lot of play­ers this will be their last World Cup – a lot in their early 30s who prob­a­bly won’t be around in four years’ time.

“They are ex­tremely mo­ti­vated to make the most of the op­por­tu­ni­ties and hope­fully pro­duce a per­for­mance on Sun­day.

“We are fairly fa­mil­iar with South Africa and have had a fair bit of suc­cess against them. There was a pe­riod a few years ago where they were try­ing to em­u­late the All Blacks or Aus­tralia; try­ing to be a bit too ex­pan­sive in the way they played.

“They’ve gone back to their strengths, and their strengths are def­i­nitely that phys­i­cal­ity up front with driv­ing line-outs and a strong scrum and ball-car­ry­ing.”

Big chance: Owen Lane, of Cardiff Blues, is join­ing Wales’ squad in Ja­pan

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