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Moon backs skilful Wales

Former Wales scrum-half Rupert Moon feels Warren Gatland's side are ready to spring a Rugby World Cup surprise and eliminate either England or Australia.

Tournament hosts England and Australia are the favourites to emerge from a so-called 'Group of Death' featuring three of the top six teams in the current International Rugby Board rankings this autumn.

England have the advantage of playing at their Twickenham home while Australia appear to have a psychological hold over Wales having won the last 10 matches between the two nations.

But Moon, who won 24 caps for Wales between 1993 and 2001, believes Gatland's men will benefit from their experience of reaching the 2011 World Cup semi-finals when they were a successful long-range Leigh Halfpenny penalty away from reaching the final.

"Wales have been preparing for this moment since the last World Cup," Moon told Press Association Sport as he helped launch the first leg of the 10-day Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour around the country from the top of Mount Snowdon.

"They will go into this tournament fitter, faster, stronger and more skilful than ever before.

"The structure and organisation is in place and they will draw on their experience at the last World Cup.

"That was a bit bitter-sweet in the end in the way they lost to France in the semi-final but I believe that will stand them in good stead because they know what it takes to go that far in the tournament."

Wales have already been hit by injuries ahead of pre-World Cup training camps in Switzerland and Qatar, with British and Irish Lions centre Jonathan Davies ruled out by knee ligament damage and doubts existing over utility back Liam Williams and tight-head prop Samson Lee.

Williams underwent foot surgery on Wednesday and is sidelined for 10 weeks while fellow Scarlet Lee is recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon sustained during the Six Nations Championship in March.

Gatland hopes the pair will be available for Wales' World Cup opener against Uruguay in Cardiff on September 20 but Moon believes the New Zealander has plenty of talent at his disposal.

"We've lost a player like Jonathan Davies but been able to replace him with Scott Williams," Moon said.

"I'd take that and I think a lot of countries would as well.

"There's more depth to this Welsh squad than in the past and a crop of players who are not overawed by playing teams like Australia and New Zealand.

"Wales now possess an all round-game with forward power, speed and strength behind and a good kicking game - and can vary it.

"England and Australia are tough games but I can see Wales taking a scalp.

"Who goes through with Wales? I don't care but I expect to us in the last eight and then who knows what can happen."


From Belfast Telegraph