Wily Wales boss Warren Gatland begins mind games with England

Wales boss Warren Gatland believes that group rivals England are faced with a number of questions that need answering as they head into a World Cup on home soil.

Wales, England, Australia, Fiji and Uruguay will contest the tournament’s so-called ‘pool of death,’ with only two quarter-final places available.

And while Wales possibly start as third favourites to reach the last-eight, Gatland is undeterred by a critical Twickenham summit with England on September 26.

“We are much more settled,” Gatland said, after naming a 31-man World Cup squad that includes England-based trio Matthew Morgan, Tomas Francis and Dominic Day

.“England have got the problem of which way they want to play and who they want to play.

“Who are they going to play at nine and 10? Who are they going to play in midfield? What is the make-up of their back-row? They need (Geoff) Parling to call their lineouts — who is his partner and who comes off the bench?

“We are a little bit more settled and more comfortable with the experience and combinations that we’ve got.

“Obviously they (England) have got some world-class players and the depth that I would love to have, but they are not 100 per cent sure of where they are going.

“It’s a toss of a coin, isn’t it? There’s a bit of respect between the two teams, and on the day we are both capable of beating each other.

“As a coach, I’ve had some great success at Twickenham. I think it’s a great stadium and I love going there. It’s been lucky for me, and may it continue to be so.”

Gatland’s squad contains five locks, with one of those — 90 times-capped Alun-Wyn Jones currently suffering from a medial knee ligament strain — while only two hookers have been selected in Scott Baldwin and Ken Owens, with Kristian Dacey missing out.

Gatland has also gone with wing Liam Williams, who has not yet recovered from a foot injury, and prop Samson Lee, who suffered an Achilles tendon injury last March.

The seven players cut from Gatland’s 38-man training group are Dacey, flanker Ross Moriarty, whose father Paul and uncle Richard played for Wales at the 1987 World Cup, Ospreys wing Eli Walker, Dragons centre Tyler Morgan, Cardiff Blues fly-half Gareth Anscombe, who is currently nursing an ankle injury, Blues prop Scott Andrews and Scarlets prop Rob Evans.

“The ones (players) who missed out were spoken to this morning. It’s not easy. We will sit down with them now and do some one on ones with them,” he said.

“It’s the hardest thing as a coach. We spoke to a group of senior players and asked how they wanted it to be done.”

Meanwhile Scotland wing Sean Lamont is comfortable he does all he can to earn selection for a third World Cup – but he will not take inclusion for granted.

Lamont could not have had a better weekend ahead of Vern Cotter’s announcement of his final squad this afternoon. The 34-year-old scored two tries as Scotland thrashed Italy 48-7 at Murrayfield to further boost his hopes of being in the 31-man pool. But Lamont left Murrayfield eager to spend some time with his family trying not to think about Cotter’s next move, while relaxed about the fact he has done what he can to add to his 96 caps in England .

Lamont played in all three warm-up games and was heavily involved in Scotland’s two tries in Dublin, and looks to have done enough.

“I would like to think so, however, I have said it before, I don’t take anything for granted anymore,” the Glasgow wing said. “That’s where complacency comes in. The way I see it, I’ve done as much as I can. The power is now in other people’s hands.

“It’s down to the boss, what he decides. I’ve done as much as I can and if that’s not enough for him, then so be it. It’s what is right for Scotland. That’s all I care about.”

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