This is the best Wales team Warren Gatland can pick at the Rugby World Cup

This is the best Wales team Warren Gatland can pick at the Rugby World Cup

If nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, Warren Gatland may quietly lament that neither is versatility – perhaps even calling to mind the exploits of one Jehoida Hodges back in the day.

The prop switched to wing after an injury during a Wales-England encounter in 1903. Fifteen minutes later, Newport coal miner Hodges had completed a hat-trick of tries.

At various points in his career, he played in every position in the pack.

Quite the man to take to a World Cup, then, when the ability to play in more than one position is so important to a coach.

READ MORE: Warren Gatland Q&A: My tough decisions and the risk we know we’re taking

Wales head coach Gatland has made his calls for the tournament in France and the 33 names are now out in the public domain.

Injuries are a concern with seven members of his squad carrying knocks less than three weeks before Wales open their campaign with a date against Fiji in Bordeaux.

The likelihood is the coach may not be able to field his strongest XV in that match, but what would it be, assuming all were fit and firing? It is a question that will prompt many different answers, even given that last weekend suggested Wales have all the depth of a shallow puddle.

Liam Williams’ display against England at Twickenham earlier this month indicated the No. 15 jersey is his to lose, as dependable as Leigh Halfpenny is. Both are fine defenders and intelligent readers of play. Halfpenny is the better kicker out of hand, but Williams adds dash from the back and for a team who managed just 11 tries in five Six Nations games in 2023 anything that peps the attack is not to be discounted lightly.

Of course, there’s the option of using Halfpenny at full-back and Williams as a wing, something Wales have gone for in the past, but we’ll assume that Williams’ best position is as last line of defence and suggest he should be picked there.

Gatland needs Josh Adams to find his A game. The Cardiff player doesn’t make many mistakes and is arguably Wales’ most reliable defensive wing, but, just as a striker’s job in football is to hit the back of the net, so a wideman’s main brief in rugby is to score tries, and Adams hasn’t been delivering on that front in Test rugby of late, with his last touchdown for Wales coming in the second Test against South Africa 13 months ago.

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…. to be continued
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