The Wales players who might yet spring a Rugby World Cup shock

The Wales players who might yet spring a Rugby World Cup shock

Warren Gatland has never selected players based solely on reputation, as Brian O’Driscoll could testify to.

The New Zealander has always known when a player is ready to make the step up to Test rugby, while on the other side of the coin he knows when a player can offer no more on the international circuit. Since Gatland returned to the helm last December following the dismissal of Wayne Pivac there has been much focus on the age profile of his squad, along with looking ahead to the 2src27 World Cup in Australia.

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With nine uncapped players in his World Cup training squad we run the rule over which players could make a name for themselves in France this autumn.

Joe Roberts

Less than a year ago much of the Welsh rugby public may not even have known who the 23-year-old from Llanelli was. The Scarlets star would have likely made a name for himself much sooner if it wasn’t for a serious knee injury sustained in the summer of 2src19.

Roberts’ real breakthrough performance came at the Arms Park in early January as the young outside centre ripped the Cardiff defence to help his side to victory.

He was outstanding during the second half of last season with his power, pace and quick feet in attack cementing his place in the Scarlets’ first-choice XV.

Sources within the Wales camp have told WalesOnline that Roberts has really impressed in training, while Gatland himself singled the Burry Port product out for praise on BBC’s Scrum V podcast last month. Centre is a position where Gatland will have no choice but to opt for more inexperienced players, which is a contrast to the previous three World Cups where he had established midfield pairings at his disposal.

The casual onlooker tends to get excited at the flashier stuff like 5src-metre breaks and length-of-the-field tries. While Roberts does possess X-factor, what sets him apart is the way he reads the game in defence.

Many players have previously claimed the 13 channel is the hardest position on the field to defend but Roberts’ defensive reads are superb, while the fundamental unseen areas of his game are very strong. Last season he was the glue that held the Scarlets’ defence together and it may not

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