Crowded Welsh Back-Row Making Selections Tough

Wales Post-Match Press Conference

Two weeks recovered from their backbreaking training regimen in the Swiss Alps, the Welsh players are excited to get back on the pitch this weekend against England. 

Back-row and second-row specialist Cory Hill says, "They’re going to be flat-out Test matches against England and Ireland. You want to win every time you put that red jersey on.

"They are four really exciting games and playing against England and Ireland is the biggest challenge we could have before the World Cup. We certainly won’t be under-cooked because these teams are in the top five in the world."

The last time Wales squared off with England, it was Cory Hill who scored the momentum-changing try in Wales' 21-13 victory. The versatile forward crashed over from close range to put his Welsh side in front in the 70th minute. 

It was also the last bit of game action he has seen until now. His try propelled Wales onward to a Grand Slam title, but in the process Hill sacrificed his ankle; and the rest of his season. 

"I’ve been out since the Six Nations and haven’t played since, so I’ve had a pretty long stretch off.

“It’s the longest I’ve had in a long time, but I’m fit and ready to go.

“It was a pretty special moment scoring against England, but it probably lasted for only 30 seconds until I realized I’d done the injury. That’s rugby, you pick up knocks and I’d had a pretty good run before that."

The upcoming showdowns with England and Ireland are pivotal for players hoping to make the 31-man World Cup team. 

US-based subscribers can watch Wales LIVE in the Summer Test Series

August 11

Wales @ England  

August 17

Wales vs England

August 31

Wales vs Ireland

September 7

Wales @ Ireland

Hill will have his work cut out for him, but given his versatility he ought to be firmly in head coach Warren Gatland's plans. However, he does face some extremely tough competition in the positions he plays. 

The Welsh second-row starters are just about locked in at this point, with 125-cap Alun Wyn Jones, one of the greatest locks of all time, on any continent, and his partner Adam Beard, who is just 23 but has tasted victory in each of his first 13 appearances for Wales. 

Behind those two would be Cory Hill and Jake Ball. Ball is experienced and offers a great deal of attacking prowess with his athleticism and skillset. Even Bradley Davies, the old vet, is back in the mix. His presence will put even more pressure on players to perform in the upcoming Summer Test Series. 

On to Wales' back row, which many regard as being potentially the best in the world. Despite the unfortunate injury this week to world-class No. 8 Taulupe Faletau, the Welsh still have a plethora of options to select from. 

Again, Hill's ability to cover both second- and back-row roles will give him a leg up when it comes to selections, but nevertheless he will be competing with a number of top-notch players. 

Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric, and Ross Moriarty formed a formidable starting trio in Wales' Grand Slam-winning Six Nations campaign. Those three figure to be the unit moving forward, but the fight for spots behind them will be intense. 

James Davies, Seb Davies, Josh Turnbull, and Aaron Wainwright are all excellent options who are presently fit and ready for action. Aaron Shingler and the 66-cap Dan Lydiate both are finding their fitness after long injury layoffs, as is standout Wasps flanker Thomas Young. 

Unfortunately, rising star and captain-in-waiting Ellis Jenkins looks set to miss this World Cup. The 26 year old back-rower has been unable to recover in time from his severe knee injury suffered on the final play of his man-of-the-match performance in November against South Africa. 

With the expectation that Wales will bring six or seven back row players, and four or five locks, these games with England and Ireland will be crucial for Gatland to assess the form and fitness levels of his forward pack ahead of the World Cup this autumn in Japan.  

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