Sam Warburton has warned England and Australia against taking their World Cup pool rivals lightly despite the loss of key players Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb.
And the Wales captain argued that the late injuries to the influential duo could yet make Wales an unknown quantity that will play to their advantage in the so-called “pool of death”.
Warburton said: “From a Welsh perspective I’d never write off a team that’s lost a couple of players, whether teams like England and Australia are the same as us, I don’t know.
“I know England had a few injuries coming to Cardiff in this year’s Six Nations and we definitely didn’t take them lightly. They had a lot of strength in depth. An international team is not made up of two players.”
Halfpenny and Webb were both injured in the final warm-up game – a 23-19 victory over Italy. As a result Mike Phillips and Eli Walker have been drafted into the squad as late replacements, and Warburton admitted the news had been greeted with dejection by the Welsh public.
But he allayed fears the change had seriously dented their hopes of even making it out of the pool let alone progressing in the knockout stages and argued it could actually have an unsettling effect on their rivals.
“It changes the team dynamics as they’re different players but that might actually make it harder for the opposition,” added Warburton, who leads Wales at a second World Cup having reached the semi-finals in 2011. “They expect us to play a certain style and we have to adapt. It could work to our advantage.”
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