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Anscombe given hope by Howley

Published 03/06/2015

Wales assistant coach Rob Howley expects a fierce battle for places in a final 31-man World Cup squad
Wales assistant coach Rob Howley expects a fierce battle for places in a final 31-man World Cup squad

Gareth Anscombe can expect every opportunity to show his possible World Cup credentials during Wales' intensive preparations for the tournament.

New Zealand-born Anscombe is viewed by many as the favourite to provide additional fly-half and full-back cover in head coach Warren Gatland's final World Cup squad when it is announced on August 31.

Anscombe, who qualifies for Wales through his Cardiff-born mother, finds himself in a highly-competitive area.

With Dan Biggar a certainty as Wales' first-choice number 10 and Rhys Priestland in pole position as immediate back-up, it leaves the likes of Anscombe, James Hook, Matthew Morgan and Rhys Patchell effectively contesting one place unless Gatland identifies a utility back from elsewhere within his training squad

"Gareth has come on board and spent a fair bit of time with us during the Six Nations this season," Wales assistant coach Rob Howley said.

"I think he has played 10 and 15 for Cardiff Blues, and it is always difficult to be judgemental of a player who is playing in a team that is struggling when you are a nine or 10.

"I think what we have seen of him in our environment has been very good.

"He has got a very good individual skill-set. Sometimes it can be high risk, high reward, and that comes from playing in an environment where you are not getting much ball and the ball you do get you want to do something with.

"We have spoken to Gareth about composure and patience. We want to see him now for the next couple of months, week in week out, working with nines, working with front-foot ball and making those judgements under fairer conditions."

Gloucester star Hook has only started two Tests for Wales since the 2011 World Cup, but he offers vast experience through a 77-cap international career, while Morgan was recently named Championship player of the season following an outstanding campaign with Bristol.

Howley added: "Dan Biggar is the outstanding 10, but there is a lot of competition.

"We will get to learn about all those players when they are working in the same environment, under different conditions, to put them under stress and pressure.

"I have been on record to say that the third 10 in the final squad for the World Cup needs to play other positions - 10 and 15 primarily - and that is going to be a key decision for us as a coaching team going to the World Cup.

"We spoke to James in the autumn and told him he was quite lateral in attack. We talked about our 10s being first receiver, in control and challenging the gain-line and controlling the game.

"I am really happy, having watched him over the last couple of months, that he's not as lateral in attack as he was at the start of the season.

"I think Matthew is a full-back in the international game, if I'm honest. The looseness of the kicking game gives him more time and space.

"I sat down with him last year and talked about when he comes in our environment we are looking at him as a 15, first and foremost, with the ability to play 10.

"He is one of those players who has got the ability to change the course of a game.

"When you look at those players in terms of the last couple of players in squads, it is the X-factor, the impact they are able to have and the ability they have to change a game, and Matthew ticks a lot of those boxes."

Wales, meanwhile, are confident that prop Samson Lee will be fit for the World Cup.

The Scarlets forward, a pivotal member of Gatland's first-choice team, suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during Wales' Six Nations victory over Ireland in March.

Wales forwards coach Robin McBryde said: "We are confident he will be fit for the World Cup.

"We have a lot of faith in our medical team, our physios. They have proven time and again how effective they can be.

"We know with Samson, whatever is asked of him he will do it because he is desperate to get his shirt back and be part of a Wales World Cup squad."

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