Image:Rugby Union – England v Wales – IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 Pool A – Twickenham Stadium, London, England – 26/9/15Bradley Davies and Alun Wyn Jones of Wales celebrate victoryAction Images via Reuters / Andrew Couldridge
By John Geddie
LONDON (Reuters) – Wales prepared for a huge physical battle against Fiji, South Africa named Fourie Du Preez as captain and England received a welcome injury boost at the Rugby World Cup on Wednesday.
A depleted and battered Welsh side must front up again against the powerful Fijians on Thursday, a team who stunned them in the 2007 competition. Victory in the Pool A match would put the Welsh within touching distance of the last eight.
“They are a very physical team,” Wales forwards coach Robin McBryde told a news conference. “They have big runners with gas and physicality.
“We know it’s going to be a very physical battle and they won’t hold anything back against us. It’s their last chance of getting a big scalp.”
Having won at Twickenham last week, another Welsh victory would mean England must beat Australia on Saturday or face the ignominy of being the first host nation not to make the group stages.
England centre Jonathan Joseph — arguably their most potent attacking threat — is set to be fit to face Australia on Saturday.
The return of Joseph, who will partner Brad Barritt in the England midfield, could be just the spark they need after the demoralising capitulation at Twickenham.
Number eight Ben Morgan is also fit to replace Billy Vunipola, who has been ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury. Coach Stuart Lancaster will confirm his team on Thursday.
The France players get another chance to try to impress their coach on Thursday when they face a Canadian team that ran Italy close in Pool D.
Two weeks into the tournament the French players are none the wiser when it comes to what coach Philippe Saint-Andre considers his best side.
“We never know,” fullback Scott Spedding told reporters.
“We have to prove ourselves each game. Things can change very fast. No one is safe and we have to earn our place each week, and that is a good thing.”
France’s main group rivals Ireland may have to make last-minute changes for their match against Italy on Sunday if centre Jared Payne is unfit.
Payne missed training because of bruising to his foot and will be reviewed by medics on Thursday.
New Zealand winger Waisake Naholo is set to make his World Cup debut against Georgia in the first ever match between the sides on Friday.
Naholo was among 10 changes to the All Blacks’ side that faced Namibia with captain Richie McCaw set to win his 145th cap.
Coach Steve Hansen admitted that Georgia were something of an unknown quantity.
“Although we don’t know a lot about Georgia, we know enough,” he said. “They’re big, strong athletes and should contribute to what will be a great occasion at the Millennium Stadium.”
Georgia have rested several first-team regulars with an eye on the final group game against Namibia in which they will likely have a chance to secure third place and automatic qualification for the 2019 tournament.
South Africa named veteran scrumhalf Du Preez as captain and made three changes in the side to play Scotland in Newcastle on Saturday.
Du Preez replaced Jean de Villiers, who returned home with a broken jaw suffered in last the 46-6 win over Samoa.
Scotland will name their team on Thursday with the big question whether flyhalf Finn Russell will be fit after sustaining an ankle injury against the United States.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)
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