Rugby’s showpiece event is now only five days away, and it’s certainly been an eventful week in the Wales camp. Confirmation that both Rhys Webb and Leigh Halfpenny will be missing the whole tournament was followed by the naming of warhorse Mike Phillips and the electric Eli Walker as their replacements in the squad. I have to say, after initially feeling devastated by the loss of Halfpenny and Webb, I still feel there is enough experience and talent in this group of players to really press for world cup honours.
Phillips’ return seems to have raised concerns amongst some critics. What do they know? From what I gather, he dealt with his exclusion from the original squad in the professional manner you would expect from any player. Despite being arguably short of his past form, I believe Phillips has a few massive games left in him, and I back him to return to his best in the coming weeks.
For Walker, who’s career has been dogged by injury, this is a golden opportunity to announce his arrival on the biggest stage. He’s been a live wire at the Ospreys for a number of seasons, and many have tipped him to make a big impact in a red jersey. I expect to see him feature heavily in the game against Uruguay.
Speaking of which, Liam Williams and Samson Lee are likely to be starting that first Wales game. Both are in need of game time after recovering from injury, and will hopefully be back to full strength in time for the game against England on 26th September.
In other rugby news from the weekend, Cardiff Blues lost their second game of the season, away against Leinster. Blues went into the match on a high following the try-fest against Zebre at the Arms Park last weekend, but were ultimately undone by a lack of possession and a penalty-try towards the end of the game. It was pleasing to read that Cardiff’s defence had been impressive all afternoon, as this is one area we need to greatly improve on from last season.
I was really happy to hear Josh Turnbull signed a new contract this week to extend his stay at Cardiff Blues. He is an imposing presence on the field. Turnbull defends and competes ferociously. He performed brilliantly last term, and had a storming start to this season too – he scored a hat-trick of tries last weekend!