Jac Morgan in line to captain Wales at Rugby World Cup
Jac Morgan looks set to be named as Wales captain for the Rugby World Cup.
The 23-year-old Ospreys flanker led Wales in two of their three warm-up Tests, and undoubtedly occupies pole position.
The waiting game for Wales’ World Cup hopefuls will end just after midday on Monday when Warren Gatland’s 33-man squad is unveiled.
If, as expected, Morgan lands the job, he would follow previous Wales skippers like Sam Warburton, Alun Wyn Jones and Gareth Thomas in captaining his country on the sport’s biggest stage.
Memories would also be evoked of Warburton being appointed as a 22-year-old for the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, when Gatland masterminded a run to the semi-finals.
A total of 15 players in the current training squad will not make Gatland’s final cut, but he confirmed that fly-half Gareth Anscombe and number eight Taulupe Faletau would be in contention despite not featuring during the August preparation games due to injuries.
“I think they are in contention because of their experience,” Gatland said.
“If they were a young player it would be very, very difficult to select them, but given their vast amount of experience they will definitely be part of those discussions.”
Reflecting on the build-up period, which has also included intensive training camps in Switzerland and Turkey, Gatland added: “I think the big thing is we wanted to give everyone an opportunity and we wanted to find out about players.
“There is no doubt we are going to pick up injuries during the World Cup as well, and every team will do that.
“Players that have had some game-time, that have been a part of the squad for the last number of weeks, will hopefully come in a little bit better prepared.”
A number of World Cup first-timers can be expected – possibly around half the squad – with players such as fly-half Sam Costelow, centre Mason Grady, prop Corey Domachowski and lock Dafydd Jenkins all seemingly well on course.
And for centre George North, a fourth World Cup beckons, which would put him in an illustrious group alongside the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Brian O’Driscoll.
Centres and back-row appeared the main areas of debate for Gatland and his fellow coaches when they entered final selection meetings after an inexperienced Wales line-up lost 52-16 to world champions South Africa in Cardiff.
Scrum-half Kieran Hardy, meanwhile, is poised to be included in the squad after a difficult week or so for him and his family.
Hardy’s three-month-old daughter Noa was admitted to hospital, where she had precautionary treatment after being diagnosed with a viral infection, but she is now recovering well.
He withdrew from Wales’ warm-up game against England at Twickenham as a result, before returning to action in the Springboks clash.
“Family always comes first, and to be fair to ‘Gats’ and the whole management last week, they were fantastic. They told me I needed to be there, and within half an hour I was gone and on the way home,” Hardy said.
“They have been excellent, and my family and Ellie’s (Hardy’s wife) family have been excellent as well, just to ensure that I come here and do the job.
“I think Ellie actually said to me to try and play for the girls as much as I could, just because of everything that has happened.
“In fairness, it all changed pretty quickly and she is a lot better now, so hopefully I can move forward now.”
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