Rob Howley says Wales will not look for excuses as they continue their World Cup quarter-final bid on the back of another major double injury blow.
Centre Scott Williams and wing Hallam Amos have joined fellow original 31-man World Cup squad members Leigh Halfpenny, Rhys Webb and Cory Allen in being ruled out of the tournament. Scarlets midfielder Williams (knee) and Newport Gwent Dragons back Amos (shoulder) went off during the second half of Wales’ stirring 28-25 Pool A victory over England on Saturday.
The Welsh Rugby Union announced the pair have been released from the squad, with Gloucester back James Hook and Cardiff Blues’ Gareth Anscombe called up as replacements. Hook and Anscombe were both part of Wales’ wider training squad but failed to make the final selection cut last month. Hook, despite winning 78 caps, has made one Test appearance since last November, while New Zealand-born Anscombe has recently recovered from an ankle injury.
But despite Wales losing almost a sixth of the original World Cup squad due to injuries, assistant coach Howley has underlined the fighting qualities on show at Twickenham two days ago that will be required again later this week for a Millennium Stadium appointment with Fiji.
If Wales win that game on Thursday they will be within touching distance of the last eight, while a victory for Australia against England on Saturday would send the World Cup host nation crashing out.
“For us, it is about the here and now and coaching the players that we’ve got. We won’t look for excuses,” Howley said.
“We’ve got players who can wear that Welsh jersey with passion and pride and that is what those players will do.
“Rugby is an attritional game in terms of the physicality. Hopefully, we won’t have any more injuries.
“We have had a couple of days off and we will be refreshed, ready to go [against Fiji]. Our boys came back after the England game and were in the cryotherapy chamber at 3am. That’s the attitude our players have got and the attitude we will have to see on Thursday.
“After losing some of the boys against Italy – Rhys and Leigh – three weeks ago, we said to all the backs that in the next six weeks they were going to be asked to play in positions they are really unfamiliar with.
“And to do that under pressure in the spotlight of Rugby World Cup takes a huge amount of homework, dedication and commitment.
“For me, [scrum-half] Lloyd Williams going on the wing and doing what he did [created Wales’ try against England], that’s a special moment. What a talent.”
Hook, who has won 78 caps, will play in his third World Cup and could easily be involved against Fiji. He is a wonderfully versatile performer having played Test rugby as a full-back, centre and stand-off. And Howley rubbished suggestions from some ex-players that the Wales management did not trust Hook as a player.
“I haven’t heard that,” Howley added. “I am surprised and disappointed to hear comments like that because we know James has the ability to play in those positions [10, 12, 13 and 15].
l Tonga coach Mana Otai has picked a much-changed team for today’s World Cup clash against Namibia.
The Tongans return to Pool C action at Sandy Park in Exeter 11 days after they were rocked 17-10 by Georgia.
They will tackle Namibia without captain Nili Latu, who is sidelined due to a hamstring strain. In total Tonga show nine changes from the Georgia defeat.