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Uncapped duo in World Cup reckoning


Wales head coach Warren Gatland has named a strong training squad for the Rugby World Cup

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has named a strong training squad for the Rugby World Cup

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has named a strong training squad for the Rugby World Cup

Uncapped forwards Ross Moriarty and Tomas Francis will enter the Rugby World Cup starting blocks later this month as genuine bolters to make Wales' final 31-man squad.

And in Gloucester prospect Moriarty's case that could see him complete a remarkable family treble as his father Paul and uncle Richard both played for Wales at the inaugural tournament 28 years ago.

Moriarty, a destructive performer as a blindside flanker or number eight, and Exeter tighthead prop Francis have a golden opportunity to press their claims during three months' intense preparation after being named as part of a 47-man World Cup training squad.

They are joined by fellow rookies like Newport Gwent Dragons backs Tyler Morgan and Jack Dixon among nine uncapped players in a group whose pre-World Cup schedule includes training camps in Switzerland and Qatar next month, plus home and away warm-up Tests against Ireland before Wales head coach Warren Gatland names his tournament selection on August 31.

Moriarty, 21, was born in St Helens and played for England Under-20s during their Junior World Championship-winning campaigns in 2013 and 2014, but his allegiance is now with Wales.

York-born Francis, meanwhile, was called up to join Wales' Six Nations training earlier this season. The 23-year-old has a Welsh grandmother.

"He likes to get the ball in his hand and go forward," Wales forwards coach Robin McBryde said of Moriarty.

"He can play at six and eight, he is useful in the lineout and he is comfortable taking the ball above his head at kick-offs. He has a lot of physicality.

"We have a settled back row. We have rotated Taulupe (Faletau), Dan Lydiate, Justin Tipuric and Sam Warburton, and with Ross and James King we have guys pushing who we are trying to fit in.

"It is an exciting mix, and the qualities Ross has got in terms of ball-carrying and physicality mean he is going to push as a genuine contender for the final squad.

"I had one conversation with him. I spoke to him earlier on in the week, and he was chomping at the bit. He is the type of player that quickly makes you realise he has plenty to offer.

"He is still maturing as a player. He can be a bit over-eager at times, but that is the nature of the beast.

"We were aware of Ross being over there (in England) as a Welsh-qualified player. He is one of many who have come up in conversation in trying not to miss anyone out of the net.

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"Tomas has spent time with us, and he has been so effective for Exeter. The scrum is a big part of the game in the Premiership, and against Northampton this season he got the better of a Lions prop in Alex Corbisiero."

More than a third of Gatland's training squad have previous World Cup experience, with the group also including all 12 players on national dual contracts. There are 22 backs and 25 forwards selected.

Bath lock Dominic Day has also made the cut, and he will be joined in the second-row department by Wales Under-20 captain Rory Thornton, with the Cardiff Blues forward reporting for senior squad duty once his current Junior World Cup commitments are over.

Gatland said: "The easy part for the players has been done in terms of being selected. The hard work will begin from day one with a huge schedule of preparation ahead of them.

"The players will face a tough couple of months of intensive training. We will be taking them to Switzerland, Qatar and Poland, and I can assure everyone they are no holiday camps.

"We put a lot of emphasis on conditioning and preparation in 2011, which worked well for us, and we are looking to step that up again this time."

It has emerged, meanwhile, that Wales will have all 10 of their English-based squad members available for the whole World Cup preparation period.

An agreement reached between Premiership Rugby and World Rugby means Aviva Premiership players from all countries have World Cup availability from Monday, rather than just for a 35-day period that would have affected all non-England players before the tournament kicks off in September.

A Premiership Rugby spokesman said: "Premiership Rugby is pleased to confirm that we have come to an agreement with World Rugby to release all our players called up by any nation for the Rugby World Cup from this week.

"We are grateful to World Rugby for this co-operation in this matter as we had to ensure all our clubs and players are properly protected when players are released on International duty.

"This variance to our policy to only release players within the confines of Regulation 9 will only be applied for the 2015 Rugby World Cup."

Regulation 9 of World Rugby's "Regulations relating to the game" governs the windows during which clubs are obliged to release their players for international duty.

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