Warren Gatland breaks new ground by naming Wales co-captains for Rugby World Cup
Wales boss Warren Gatland has broken new ground in his long and successful coaching career by naming co-captains for the Rugby World Cup.
Gatland has turned to Ospreys forwards Jac Morgan and Dewi Lake to lead a 33-strong squad that includes recent international newcomers in centre Mason Grady, fly-half Sam Costelow and prop Corey Domachowski.
But there is no place for scrum-half Kieran Hardy, with Gatland deciding to select just two nines in Tomos Williams and Gareth Davies.
On the captaincy, Gatland said: “They are two young players who will complement each other really well. They are good mates and have a good relationship.
“It is something that I have never done before and it is a good opportunity for them. They have got a big future ahead of them.
“Whoever is in charge on the day, he will make the final decision. The captain has the final decision on the day.”
Hooker Lake, meanwhile, said: “Me and Jac have played together for a long time – (Wales) Under-20s, Ospreys and we have roomed together through these mini camps.
“We are quite straight and honest with each other. If something needs to be said, we are happy to say it, coming from a place of friendship.
“I couldn’t think of anyone better to share this role with. I can’t the fault the man in any way.”
And flanker Morgan added: “Dewi is great as a captain. He leads from the front and when something needs to be said, he will say it.
“I probably would have never have thought of this four years ago. It’s great to be here with him.”
Gatland has cut 15 players from his training squad, with that list featuring the likes of Hardy, Ospreys wing Alex Cuthbert, Gloucester centre Max Llewellyn, Dragons lock Ben Carter and Scarlets back-row forward Taine Plumtree.
Gatland confirmed that Costelow would provide scrum-half cover for the tournament, which Wales begin against Fiji in Bordeaux on September 10.
“We’d had a discussion with the players right from the start that the tipping point could be that we take two nines or three tens,” Gatland said.
“We know that we have taken a risk. Other teams have done the same thing.
“You have got a pinching point in the squad somewhere in terms of the numbers, but those nines have been pretty robust and we are confident they are going to be fine.”
Fly-half Gareth Anscombe and number eight Taulupe Faletau have won Gatland’s vote despite not featuring during Wales’ three-game August schedule due to injuries.
And he has named Lake – who is currently recovering from a knee injury – and his fellow hooker Ryan Elias (hamstring), plus lock Dafydd Jenkins (knee), who at 20 is the squad’s youngest player.
Centre George North, meanwhile, will head to his fourth World Cup, putting himself in illustrious company alongside the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Brian O’Driscoll, Dan Carter and Richie McCaw.
Also heading to France are Scarlets centre Johnny Williams, who watched the last World Cup four years ago from a hospital bed – while he was treated for testicular cancer – and former England prop Henry Thomas.
Thomas, whose father is from Swansea, won seven England caps in 2013 and 2014, but new World Rugby regulations enable players to appear for another country either of their birth, parent or grandparent provided a minimum three-year period has elapsed since last being selected elsewhere.
“There was always going to be some disappointed players, but for those who have missed out, it is just make sure they keep working hard and there is always potentially an opportunity,” Gatland added.
And on the tournament itself, he said: “It’s one step at a time. It’s about getting out of your pool first and then see where you are.
“We are pretty clear how we want to play against Fiji. We know how dangerous they are.
“We are well aware of how important that first game is. If you can win that game, you get some momentum and then you can get some confidence and hopefully you have a chance to win the group.”
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