Wales coach Warren Gatland has turned the heat on group rivals England, saying they have plenty of questions that must be answered heading into the Rugby World Cup pool of death with his team and the Wallabies.
With only two quarter-final places available from the five-team pool and Wales possibly starting as third favourites to reach the last-eight behind England and Australia, Gatland is undeterred by a critical Twickenham summit clash with England on September 26.
“We are much more settled,” said Gatland after naming his 31-man World Cup squad, which excluded former Blues first-five Gareth Anscombe.
“England have got the problem of which way they want to play and who they want to play.
“Who are they going to play at nine and 10?
“Who are they going to play in midfield?
“What is the make-up of their back-row?
“They need (Geoff) Parling to call their lineouts – who is his partner and who comes off the bench?
“We are a little bit more settled and more comfortable with the experience and combinations that we’ve got.
“Obviously they (England) have got some world-class players and the depth that I would love to have, but they are not 100 per cent sure of where they are going.”
And what about the Wales v Engalnd clash?
“It’s a toss of a coin, isn’t it?” said Gatland. “There’s a bit of respect between the two teams, and on the day we are both capable of beating each other.
“As a coach, I’ve had some great success at Twickenham. I think it’s a great stadium and I love going there. It’s been lucky for me, and may it continue to be so.”
Gatland’s squad contains five locks, with one of those – 90 times-capped Alun-Wyn Jones currently suffering from a medial knee ligament strain – while only two hookers have been selected in Scott Baldwin and Ken Owens, with Kristian Dacey missing out.
Gatland has also gone with wing Liam Williams, who has not yet recovered from a foot injury, and prop Samson Lee, who suffered an Achilles tendon injury last March.
The seven players cut from Gatland’s 38-man training group are Dacey, flanker Ross Moriarty, whose father Paul and uncle Richard played for Wales at the 1987 World Cup, Ospreys wing Eli Walker, Dragons centre Tyler Morgan, Cardiff Blues fly-half Anscombe, who is currently nursing an ankle injury, Blues prop Scott Andrews and Scarlets prop Rob Evans.
Gatland made his presence felt in selection earlier this month by cutting British and Irish Lions trio Richard Hibbard, Mike Phillips and James Hook from his training squad, but another Lion – wing Alex Cuthbert – has made the final squad despite many pundits feeling that he might have faced an uphill task.