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Warren Gatland says England have questions to answer ahead of World Cup

Wales boss Warren Gatland believes that group rivals England are faced with a number of questions that need answering as they head into a World Cup on home soil.

Wales, England, Australia, Fiji and Uruguay will contest the tournament's so-called 'pool of death,' with only two quarter-final places available.

And while Wales possibly start as third favourites to reach the last-eight, Gatland is undeterred by a critical Twickenham summit with England on September 26.

"We are much more settled," Gatland said, after naming a 31-man World Cup squad that includes England-based trio Matthew Morgan, Tomas Francis and Dominic Day.

"England have got the problem of which way they want to play and who they want to play.

"Who are they going to play at nine and 10? Who are they going to play in midfield? What is the make-up of their back-row? They need (Geoff) Parling to call their lineouts - who is his partner and who comes off the bench?

"We are a little bit more settled and more comfortable with the experience and combinations that we've got.

"Obviously they (England) have got some world-class players and the depth that I would love to have, but they are not 100 per cent sure of where they are going.

"It's a toss of a coin, isn't it? There's a bit of respect between the two teams, and on the day we are both capable of beating each other.

"As a coach, I've had some great success at Twickenham. I think it's a great stadium and I love going there. It's been lucky for me, and may it continue to be so."

Gatland's squad contains five locks, with one of those - 90 times-capped Alun-Wyn Jones currently suffering from a medial knee ligament strain - while only two hookers have been selected in Scott Baldwin and Ken Owens, with Kristian Dacey missing out.

Gatland has also gone with wing Liam Williams, who has not yet recovered from a foot injury, and prop Samson Lee, who suffered an Achilles tendon injury last March.

Reflecting on Lee's current situation, Gatland added: "Maybe Samson for Uruguay (on September 20). He is up and running and not too far away, and it's just making sure we don't push him too hard, too early.

"Liam had a little bit of foot pain last week, and hopefully he will be up and running again this week. We have just got to monitor him."

Gatland, meanwhile, has no doubt about the inspirational Jones being fit to spearhead Wales' forward effort against England in 26 days' time.

"These guys are in good shape," he said. "Alun probably won't play between now and then, and if we need to do some live stuff in training to make sure they get that physical contact, we will.

"He has enough rugby behind him and enough experience that he will rock up on the day.

"I thought two players who hadn't played for five and a half months (against Ireland last Saturday) in Bradley Davies and George North looked pretty comfortable. Those experienced players have the ability to step straight into the fold, so I'm not worried."

The seven players cut from Gatland's 38-man training group are Dacey, flanker Ross Moriarty, whose father Paul and uncle Richard played for Wales at the 1987 World Cup, Ospreys wing Eli Walker, Dragons centre Tyler Morgan, Cardiff Blues fly-half Gareth Anscombe, who is currently nursing an ankle injury, Blues prop Scott Andrews and Scarlets prop Rob Evans.

Gatland made his presence felt in selection earlier this month by cutting British and Irish Lions trio Richard Hibbard, Mike Phillips and James Hook from his training squad, but another Lion - wing Alex Cuthbert - has made the final squad despite many pundits feeling that he might have faced an uphill task.

"The ones (players) who missed out were spoken to this morning. It's not easy. We will sit down with them now and do some one on ones with them," he said.

"It's the hardest thing as a coach. We spoke to a group of senior players and asked how they wanted it to be done."


From Belfast Telegraph