Rugby World Cup 2011

Injury concerns for Wales

2011-10-10 11:23
Rhys Priestland (Getty Images)

Auckland - Wales have injury concerns over flyhalf Rhys Priestland and lock Luke Charteris ahead of Saturday's Rugby World Cup semi-final against France, assistant coach Neil Jenkins said on Monday.

Jenkins, who described the match as probably the biggest game in Welsh rugby history, said both players were still struggling with shoulder injuries sustained in the quarter-final victory over Ireland last weekend.

"Priestland's taken a knock to the shoulder and we will see how he is in the next few days," Jenkins told a news conference. "Luke Charteris (is) exactly the same. Hopefully they will be alright for the weekend."

The 24-year-old Priestland, who made his international debut earlier this year, has been one of the leading lights of a youthful team that has confounded the odds by reaching the last four.

James Hook, who has been used at fullback during the tournament, gives an experienced option to replace Priestland, as does test centurion Stephen Jones, but the Welsh would probably prefer to keep intact a line-up that has played so well.

Wales do have an extra second row option in former captain Ryan Jones, who normally plays in the back row, but Charteris, who has been a major presence defensively for the team at the World Cup, said he was hopeful of being fit.

"I'm a bit sore but I'm recovering well and fingers crossed I'll be good to go," the 28-year-old said.

Wales, for all their great players and strong rugby tradition, reached the World Cup semi-finals at the inaugural tournament in 1987 but have never been in a final.

Jenkins, who played 87 times for his country, said the squad were under no illusions as to the importance of the task ahead of them to the people back in rugby-mad principality.

"It's probably the biggest in Welsh rugby history," said the former British and Irish Lion. "I would say this is the biggest game I have been involved in and maybe in Welsh rugby history.

"I said it before when Wales have won grand slams it is all about momentum. ... The boys seem to be getting stronger and stronger. We don't fear anyone at this moment in time."

France have won their last three Tests against Wales and Jenkins said they would be preparing to face the team that beat England in the quarter-finals last weekend rather than that which lost to Tonga the week before.

"They are very tough," he said. "I think if they turn up with their 'A' game, they are one of the best sides in the world.

"They have beaten us the last few times we've played them... we've seen what they can do - we've seen the highs of them and the lows. But we expect to see the best of them on Saturday."

Despite the fairytale run to the semi-finals, Jenkins echoed the sentiment evident in the whole Welsh camp - that the job was not yet finished.

"It is a big game Saturday but we haven't achieved anything yet," he added. "We have a lot to play for and this is a great opportunity. Who knows what happens in four years time so we have got to take our chance now."


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