Rugby World Cup 2011

Wales duo in fitness check

2011-10-09 08:02
Luke Charteris (AP)

Auckland - Wales will monitor the fitness of Luke Charteris and Rhys Priestland as they shape up for their biggest World Cup game in 24 years, against France.

The youthful Welsh have been the revelation of the tournament and have reached only their second World Cup semi-final where they will take on Les Bleus at Eden Park on Saturday.

Newport lock Charteris and Scarlets' flyhalf Priestland both suffered shoulder injuries in the impressive 22-10 victory over Ireland in Saturday's quarter-final in Wellington.

But assistant coach Rob Howley expects the pair to recover in time for the last four showdown with France.

"Charteris and Priestland have taken knocks to their shoulders, they expect to be fit for the weekend but it's only 20 hours since the game and hopefully they'll get better as the week goes on," Howley told reporters here on Sunday.

Howley, while impressed with France's line speed in their shock 19-12 win over England at Eden Park on Saturday, said confidence was bubbling in the Welsh camp.

"I thought the French side last night was pretty efficient, they were clinical and strong on the ball, with good line speed and they put England under enormous pressure and that's what we expect from them on the weekend," former Wales scrumhalf Howley said.

"It's important that the confidence and momentum that we've achieved over the last four to five weeks we continue on with that.

"We played particularly well last night and took our chances and we just need to replicate that for next Saturday, but we're under no illusions as to how good this French side is."

Wales were crushed 49-6 by New Zealand in their only previous World Cup semi-final in Brisbane in 1987, and Howley said the current team had unfinished business with France.

"The Welsh players have achieved getting to the semi-final of a World Cup and we don't think we're finished yet, we haven't won anything, keeping our feet on the ground, our captain (Sam Warburton) is a well-grounded person," Howley said.

"We felt yesterday (Saturday) that it wasn't time to go home but actions speak louder than words and the actions you saw last night were pretty good ones and we have to replicate those to come anywhere near France on the weekend.

"There is certainly motivation. Yesterday was a huge hurdle for us when you consider that we only scored one try against Ireland in the last three or four occasions so there's always the incentive and motivation for the French."

Howley added the young Welsh backs' fearless running with the ball was down in large part to their improved fitness.

"You saw last night the ability when we're given time on the ball, we're in good physical shape that you make better decisions," he said.

"This Welsh side wants to express itself and we've always said for the last five months that it's not what you do with the ball, it's what you do without the ball in attack and defence.

"There's no fear in the youngsters and when you've got the likes of experienced heads with Shane Williams, Mike Phillips, James Hook and Gethin Jenkins and with the youngsters alongside them, they've moved their game to another level as well.

"It's great from a backs perspective, we've got the balance of skill and speed and we can ask the questions of the opposition that we need to. Hopefully, we can keep it going for another two weeks."


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