HAMAMATSU – Wales coach Warren Gatland on Friday made 13 changes to his line-up for their final Pool D match against Uruguay with some forced by injury but others made to give regular starters a rest ahead of the quarter-finals.
There were a few battered bodies after the Six Nations champions came through a tough test against Fiji on Wednesday with a win that left them needing only a victory against the South Americans on Sunday to secure top spot in the pool.
Gatland said he had been forced into more changes than he wanted in the backline because of injuries sustained during the Fiji match, most notably to flyhalf Dan Biggar and centre Jonathan Davies.
Biggar, who was forced off the pitch by injury for the second time in the tournament, was replaced in the starting line-up by Rhys Patchell as he continues his recovery from concussion.
"Dan is symptom-free. He’s being closely monitored. Jonathan took a knock on the knee, he’s being monitored," Gatland told reporters. "A few of the backs are sore and bruised as you’d expect, but apart from that, the forwards are in pretty good health."
Gatland said he was hopeful that Davies would be fit for the quarter-final, which will be against France if Wales win and top the pool, while Biggar was feeling "good in himself".
Centre Hadleigh Parkes and winger Josh Adams are the only two players who will back up after starting against Fiji.
"(Winger) George North has a sore ankle, we wanted to rest (fullback) Liam Williams," said Gatland. "Two players are backing up. Ideally we’d have given Josh a rest and that hasn’t been the case."
With lock Alun Wyn Jones also rested, flanker Justin Tipuric will captain his country for the first time in Kumamoto.
"We’ve got to make sure we do a job early on against Uruguay," said Gatland. "It’s challenging with such a short turnaround but that’s what World Cups are all about.
"The squad is in a good place mentally. There are a group of players that are excited. We’re expecting another tough game but also a good performance."
The Wales team is:
15-Leigh Halfpenny, 14-Josh Adams, 13-Owen Watkin, 12-Hadleigh Parkes, 11-Hallam Amos, 10-Rhys Patchell, 9-Aled Davies, 8-Aaron Wainwright, 7-Justin Tipuric (captain), 6-Aaron Shingler, 5-Adam Beard, 4-Bradley Davies, 3-Dillon Lewis, 2-Ryan Elias, 1-Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16-Elliot Dee, 17-Rhys Carre, 18-Wyn Jones, 19-Jake Ball, 20-Ross Moriarty, 21-James Davies, 22-Tomos Williams, 23-Gareth Davies