Australia vs Wales - RWC 2015: Wales have spirit to spook the Wallabies as injury woes ease

From host-busters to ghost-busters, Gatland’s side admit they must work on their scrum ahead of Saturday’s pool decider

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The Independent Online

England may have given up the ghost in this World Cup but Wales’ players believe they are being haunted by one in the hallways of the Weybridge hotel where they find themselves once more this week.

It was at Oatlands Park where they successfully plotted England’s demise last month and where they once more will be planning Australia’s undoing at Twickenham on Saturday in order to top Pool A. After an impressive performance off the bench to prove his fitness, Samson Lee looks likely to start the match against a team Wales have not beaten in 10 encounters, although the tight head admitted some of his team-mates had been haunted by more other-worldly concerns than simple rugby matters in the build-up.

“A few of the boys think they’ve seen a ghost but I’m not sure they actually have,” said Lee. “Some of them reckon they have seen Henry VIII.

“It has been discussed over food and stuff like that and Dan Lydiate isn’t happy about it. He actually thinks he’s seen a ghost but I think he’s dreaming. He had a bang on the head and that might be the problem.”

On a more serious note, Lydiate, who damaged his eye socket in the 23-13 victory over Fiji on Thursday, and the rest of the injury-ravaged Wales squad are expected to be fully fit for their pool finale against the Wallabies.

Of the other major fitness doubts, lock Bradley Davies, who broke his nose in that match, is also deemed eligible for selection, likewise Liam Williams, who was ruled out of playing against the islanders by medical staff after being knocked out by a blow to the head from Tom Wood’s knee in the England game. 

Paul James, who picked up a calf injury in the opening game against Uruguay, has also returned to full training.

Warren Gatland, the Wales head coach, has hinted that he may yet make changes to his starting line-up with the pressure of having to qualify for the quarter-finals removed by England’s 33-13 loss against Australia. “We don’t have the burden of needing to win the game to qualify,” said Gatland. “It was the group of hell, we can take the shackles off now,” he added. 

The pack looks likeliest to undergo an overhaul after the initial front five struggled for parity against Fiji, much as Wales had done in the scrums against England just five days earlier. 

The straight-talking Lee insisted it was nothing to do with how the set pieces were being refereed. The Scarlets prop said: “At the end of the day the scrum is just about who pushes the hardest.

“Different things go on in the scrums like people’s angles but it’s about who wants to push the most. You just have to go back to basics and get your height right to win the pushing competition. I’d agree that the scrum is less technical, the hits have been taken away so there is no excuses for dropped scrums.” 

Coached by former Argentinian front-rower Mario Ledesma, Australia are set to pose a similarly threatening challenge in Saturday’s scrums. 

Wales forwards coach Robin McBryde met Lee and the rest of the pack in the squad yesterday morning to unpick how to resolve their current issues in the scrum, usually a cornerstone of their game.

Yet McBryde insisted it was not a case of ringing the alarm bells over the issue. “There’s not so much wrong with it,” he said. “You can go from having one good scrum to one bad scrum. It’s very much gone back to the art of scrummaging under the current laws.

“You’re trying to get that clean strike of the ball to get it out as quick as possible and, if you don’t get that quite right, the opposition are gunning for you and they’re timing their shove on when the ball comes in so it’s a different mindset and approach.

“But I think we’ve got clarity on how we go about our business this week and hopefully we’ll see that on Saturday.”

England have another game to play against Uruguay on Saturday but McBryde said he hoped that with their World Cup ending following that game that the supporters at the home of English rugby would take Wales under their wing.

“I would like to think so,” said McBryde, whose brother-in-law is English and whose sisters both have English partners. “We are a lot closer than Australia. Seeing as the World Cup is this side of the world it would be nice if we can get behind one of the home nations and give that north/south divide.

“The Duke of Cambridge is an avid supporter and it was good to see him in the changing room after the Fiji game. He is going to support Wales and hopefully if he can influence his brother to put on a Welsh shirt that will be great to see as well.”

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