James Davies jokingly told Warren Gatland he had “finally seen the light” after being named in Wales’ side to face Fiji – but is serious about making the most of a chance to start at the Rugby World Cup.
Back-rower Davies has replaced Justin Tipuric in the pack in one of two changes, the other seeing Ross Moriarty start at number eight.
Wales will be aiming to make it three wins from three in Pool D, though they will be wary of underestimating their opponents. Fiji won 38-34 when the nations met in the 2007 tournament, a result that saw them progress to the knockout stages at the expense of Gareth Jenkins’ side.
Gatland’s line-up suggests he is not taking any risks this year, with the aim to qualify for the quarter-finals by topping the group.
Davies joins older brother Jonathan in the XV, with Wales’ head coach revealing the former cheekily suggested his selection was long overdue.
Gatland told the media: “When I congratulated James and said well done, his reply was: ‘You have finally seen the light, have you?’ – he said he was only joking.
“I loved that – I thought it was brilliant, a great response. I love a bit of banter like that, and I have no problem with comments like that.”
— Welsh Rugby Union (@WelshRugbyUnion) October 7, 2019
Tipuric is likely to return for the game against Uruguay, so Davies understands the need to produce a big performance at Oita Stadium on Wednesday.
“Firstly I’d like to say ‘Tips’ (Justin Tipuric) and all the back row have been outstanding in my eyes and I was a little bit shocked to get the call,” the Scarlets flanker said.
“You get disappointed with selection but it’s about doing your best for the team then. You working hard makes the team train a bit better and that’s just what I’ve done I guess.”
Fiji round out their round-robin fixtures against Wales and head coach John McKee has made just the one alteration to the side that started the resounding 45-10 win over Georgia last time out.
Viliame Mata replaces Peceli Yato at number eight as the Flying Fijians aim to produce one more big performance in Japan – and perhaps pull off an even bigger shock than they managed 12 years ago.
“We see this final pool game as both a challenge and an opportunity – it is important to finish the pool stage on a high note,” McKee said.
Our lineup for the match against Wales at Oita Stadium on Wednesday
Not much changes from last weeks game, the boys recover well after their last game, and went back to business as they continue to build on the momentum as they prepare to face Wales. pic.twitter.com/UyHgQOozYB
— Fiji Rugby Union (@fijirugby) October 7, 2019
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Wales – Dan Biggar
The fly-half was forced off during the win over Australia with a head injury but returned to training at the weekend. Rhys Patchell did a solid job as a replacement against the Wallabies, but Gatland has decided Biggar is better for the clash with Fiji.
Fiji – Semi Radradra
The centre became the first player from a second-tier nation to be directly involved in five tries in a single World Cup game when he crossed twice and also provided three assists in the rout of Georgia.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Wales have won nine of their previous 11 meetings against Fiji (D1 L1). They have outscored their opponents 106-26 in the most recent three meetings
– Fiji will be aiming for back-to-back Rugby World Cup victories for the first time since 2007, having defeated Georgia last time out.
– Wales’ 66-0 win against Fiji in 2011 remains the only time they have shut out their opponents at a Rugby World Cup
– Alun Wyn Jones has now made the most tackles (162) by any player for Wales in the history of the tournament. Only Taulupe Faletau (130) has managed more carries than Wyn Jones’ tally of 128.