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Wales' World Cup opponents could be mesmerised by Morgan, says captain Warburton

Wales captain Sam Warburton has hailed the possibility of "X factor" Bristol back Matthew Morgan showcasing his talent on rugby union's biggest stage.

And Warburton has even likened 23-year-old Morgan to Wales' record try-scorer Shane Williams in terms of the dazzling footwork that can leave opposition defences floundering.

While Morgan is a relative novice at Test level with just two caps to his name - both of those appearances were as substitutes - he offers Wales game-breaking potential, which is a quality not lost on head coach Warren Gatland.

Morgan is among six outside backs named by Gatland in a 31-man World Cup squad, and Warburton has already witnessed close-up the type of damage he can cause.

"I do not pick the squad, but if I was the coach I would liked to have seen Matthew Morgan because, like Warren said, he does have that X factor," Warburton said.

"We did a training game recently against the Ospreys. He got the ball - and I can't remember what he did - but he turned a two-on-three into a two-on-one and put someone in at the corner.

"I was on the sideline looking, and went 'wow'. He does these magic moments in training, and he is brilliant.

"He would mesmerise opposition with his footwork, similar to Shane, who would come off his wing and play first-receiver.

"As a defender, it is a nightmare to defend against. When he runs at you from a distance you cannot do anything but sit on your feet because you do not know what he is going to do.

"He is a great inclusion, really exciting, and he will add something different to the back-three."

Warburton will lead a squad into the World Cup that has 998 Test caps in total, and he is among 15 survivors from four years ago in New Zealand when semi-finalists Wales delivered their best global performance since 1987.

Two squad members - Warburton's back-row colleagues Taulupe Faletau and Dan Lydiate - both look set to gain their 50th caps during the tournament and they remain influential performers, as illustrated during last Saturday's 16-10 World Cup warm-up win against reigning RBS 6 Nations champions Ireland in Dublin.

"Toby (Faletau) is in the best physical shape I have seen him ever," Warburton added.

"It is the hardest I have seen him train this summer, and by comparing him to four years ago, he is an absolute beast.

"He used to be quite relaxed in the gym - laid-back to say the least. This summer, he has trained so hard and his shape physically, he is an animal at the moment.

"Someone asked me before who I was excited about at this World Cup, and one of the boys would be Toby. The bigger the game, the better he plays. I think he will be awesome for us."

Gatland, meanwhile, is looking ahead to what he believes will be an open World Cup, with Wales initially looking to emerge from a pool that also includes hosts England, twice-world champions Australia and a dangerous Fiji outfit.

"I am desperate to get out (of the group), and would take my chances with anyone in a quarter-final," Gatland said.

"The great thing about this World Cup, and we saw it at the end of the Six Nations this year and in the Rugby Championship with Argentina beating South Africa, is that on their day there are seven or eight teams capable of winning this tournament.

"It's probably the most open World Cup."


From Belfast Telegraph