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Head coach Warren Gatland philosophical over World Cup injury woe for Wales

Published 29/09/2015

Wales assistant coach Rob Howley is impressed with Dan Biggar
Wales assistant coach Rob Howley is impressed with Dan Biggar

Warren Gatland has reacted in philosophical fashion to Wales' World Cup injury curse, by admitting: "You cannot dwell on it - I can't do anything about it."

The Wales head coach has made three injury-enforced changes for Thursday's crucial World Cup Pool A clash against Fiji in Cardiff.

Bristol full-back Matthew Morgan replaces Liam Williams, who is recovering from concussion, while centre Tyler Morgan replaces knee injury victim Scott Williams and wing Alex Cuthbert takes over from Hallam Amos, who is sidelined from the rest of the tournament with a shoulder problem.

It is otherwise the same team that beat England at Twickenham three days ago, with James Hook, who was called into the squad as a replacement on Monday, named among the substitutes.

Gatland has already lost almost a sixth of his original World Cup squad, with Scott Williams and Amos joining fellow casualties Leigh Halfennny, Rhys Webb and Cory Allen.

But victory over Fiji would put Wales within touching distance of securing a quarter-final place from arguably the toughest group in World Cup history, given that it also includes Australia.

"I was talking to (Wales' national medical manager) Prav (Mathema) yesterday, and he said it is probably the worst run of injuries he's been involved with as a team," Gatland said.

"You cannot dwell on it - I can't do anything about it. You just move on and go forward.

"I don't dwell on it. I can't change it. You are disappointed for the players, but you move forward to prepare for the next match.

"We've still got guys who are battered and bruised this morning, and we've got a game in two days.

"I don't know whether four or five-day turnarounds in World Cups are too short. We are not complaining, as we've known about that for a long time and prepared for it.

"When you are involved all the time, you don't see the changes, but the only gauge I have as a coach is my involvement with the Lions in 2009 and 2013.

"In that four years, seeing the difference in physicality. South Africa is one of the most physical countries to go and play and then, from South Africa to Australia, the step up in physicality and intensity increased massively.

"It's something we all need to be aware of because it's a pretty brutal game at the moment. It's important we consider and look after the welfare of our players as well."

Gatland has retained the pack on duty against England, with flanker Dan Lydiate and number eight Taulupe Faletau both winning their 50th caps.

Matthew Morgan, 23, and 20-year-old Tyler Morgan make first World Cup starts as Wales look to close in on the quarter-finals, with Gatland's powerful line-up reflecting the huge importance of Thursday's game.

Tyler Morgan missed out on original World Cup selection, but was then drafted in as replacement for Allen, who suffered a tournament-ending hamstring injury after scoring three tries against opening opponents Uruguay nine days ago.

Hook apart, the bench is unchanged from that on duty at Twickenham, with again no place in the match-day 23 for Ospreys prop Paul James, who went off with calf muscle trouble during the Uruguay game.

Gatland added: "The changes were forced, and I think there is an opportunity for that forward pack to play.

"Some of the guys weren't 100 per cent happy with their performance, so there is the opportunity to go out and fix a couple of things that we needed to tidy up from Saturday.

"It's a reward for them as well. We could have made some changes. I was impressed that a couple of players after the game were happy with the win, but not 100 per cent happy with their own performance.

"The chat is about making sure we are mentally right. It's incredibly important to get a result on Thursday, and if we do that we're in the box seat a bit more."

And Wales captain Sam Warburton, who praised fellow back-row cap half-centurions Lydiate and Faletau, has backed Gatland's stance.

"In the changing room (at Twickenham) and on the bus, celebrations were awesome, but we can't let slip all the hard work," Warburton said.

"I know the players won't be in the wrong mindset for the Fiji game. There will be no complacency."

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