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Saturday 10 December 2016

Wales coach Warren Gatland has no fresh injury concerns ahead of Australia game

Wales Cooach Warren Gatland shakes hands with Tomas Francis as he walks off the field of play following victory in the 2015 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between England and Wales at Twickenham
Wales Cooach Warren Gatland shakes hands with Tomas Francis as he walks off the field of play following victory in the 2015 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between England and Wales at Twickenham

Wales head coach Warren Gatland is set to select from a fully-fit squad for Saturday's World Cup Pool A decider against Australia at Twickenham.

Gatland has lost almost a sixth of his original 31-man World Cup group to tournament-ending injuries - Leigh Halfpenny, Rhys Webb, Scott Williams, Hallam Amos and Cory Allen - but the situation is now better than at any point during the competition.

Full-back Liam Williams (concussion) and prop Paul James (calf muscle) were not available for last week's victory over Fiji, but both players could be involved when Gatland names his match-day 23 on Thursday to face the Wallabies.

"We've had a longer turnaround for this Australia game, which has benefited the lads a lot," Wales' consultant head of physical performance Paul Stridgeon said.

"We managed to give them a couple of days off after the Fiji game, so they come into this game a bit fresher.

"We are all fully fit. We have got a couple of bumps and bruises, but generally we are good to go.

"England losing at the weekend (against Australia) took a bit of pressure off us, but our goal has always been to top the group.

"Warren has placed a lot of emphasis on this, but he has given the boys a bit of freedom and told the boys they can go out and play a bit this week."

If Wales top the group, they are likely to face Scotland or Japan in the quarter-finals, but defeat against Australia would mean a probable last-eight appointment with twice world champions South Africa.

Gatland is likely to make a small number of changes for the Wallabies clash, with prop Samson Lee, Luke Charteris and flanker Justin Tipuric among those who could gain call-ups.

Former England fitness chief Stridgeon, meanwhile, has paid tribute to the Wales squad.

"The culture here is so strong," he added.

"The boys have a great work ethic, there are no egos, and we haven't had one person question one aspect of the training, no matter what we tell them to do.

"If we tell them to run around holding an elastic band or holding a bottle of water in their hand, they would just get on with it, and that's fantastic as a coach to come into an environment that is so hard-working.

"Me and 'Gats' go back to 2002. He gave me my first job at Wasps, so when he rang me (about working with Wales) it was a dream for me.

"There is a lot of trust with everyone. Everyone is great at their job, and are tremendously loyal, and we have a bit of fun as well."

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