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Joe Roberts could make Wales debut in next World Cup warm-up clash with England

08 Aug 2023 4 minute read
Scarlets’ Joe Roberts celebrates victory following the European Challenge Cup, Quarter Final match at the Parc y Scarlets, Image by David Davies PA Images

Andrew Baldock, PA Rugby Union Correspondent

Wales boss Warren Gatland looks set to hand Scarlets centre Joe Roberts a Test debut among wholesale changes for Saturday’s second Rugby World Cup warm-up game against England.

Wales head to Twickenham on the back of an impressive 20-9 victory in Cardiff that saw then score 14 unanswered second-half points through converted tries from Gareth Davies and George North.

And Gatland is ready to cast an eye over several World Cup candidates who were not involved at the Principality Stadium.

Roberts apart, other potential starters include wing Josh Adams, fly-half Owen Williams, hooker Dewi Lake and lock Rhys Davies.

Back-row forward Taine Plumtree, meanwhile, could line up at number eight following an impressive debut off the replacements’ bench last weekend.

Swansea-born Plumtree, whose rugby education came in the southern hemisphere’s Super Rugby competition, only linked up with Wales ahead of their mid-July training camp in Switzerland.

But he has made an immediate impression and is already viewed as a player with an outstanding chance of making Gatland’s final 33-strong World Cup squad.

“He has been very good, he is a talent and an athlete,” Wales assistant coach Neil Jenkins said.

“He understands the game, and he played pretty well when he went on on Saturday.

“We will see if he gets another opportunity in the coming weeks, but he is a good asset to the squad as a player and a person.

“I think he said to most of the guys that he was pretty nervous before coming in out in Switzerland and not knowing anyone. He has certainly found his feet and he gets on with the guys.”

Wales’ Aaron Wainwright is tackled by England’s Ellis Genge and Max Malins. Ben Whitley/PA Wire.

Aaron Wainwright wore the number eight shirt in Wales’ warm-up opener, with Plumtree now seemingly destined to fill that role as star back-row forward Taulupe Faletau continues his recovery from a calf muscle injury.

“He (Faletau) is making good strides and we just need to keep an eye on him,” Jenkins added.

“He is a class act, and the last thing we want to do is push him too early, but he is certainly making progress and he is in a pretty good place.

“He is a world-class player, so we will see what happens in the coming days and weeks.”

Wales look set to face a much-changed England team as they continue their warm-up schedule in a first Test since head coach Steve Borthwick announced his World Cup squad.

“Twickenham is a tough place to go and they have got a very good record against us up there,” Jenkins said. “But it’s another challenge and another good opportunity for the boys.

“I think when you can come out on the right side (of the result) it does give you confidence, there is no doubting that.

“We are in a different place to where we were in the Six Nations, and that is a good thing.

“To win a Test match against England is no mean feat, but we are grounded.

“We’ve got to go again, and we can’t be the same this Saturday. We have to be better. It’s plain and simple.

“Keeping a Test team to nine points and not conceding any tries is a massive plus and bonus. Can we raise the bar this Saturday? That is the challenge for us.”

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