Rugby World Cup: Dafydd James' Wales player verdict against Italy

By Dafydd JamesFormer Wales and Lions wing
Wales v Italy: George North goes over in Wales win
Rugby World Cup
Host: England and Wales Dates: 18 September-31 October
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and sports extra, BBC Radio Wales and in Welsh on BBC Radio Cymru, plus live text commentary on every match on the BBC Sport website

Wales ended their World Cup warm-up schedule with a scrappy 23-19 win over Italy, but coach Warren Gatland will be more worried by his casualties than the performance in Cardiff.

Scrum-half Rhys Webb appeared to suffer a serious ankle injury when he was trapped in a ruck after 26 minutes and the fear is that the Pro12 player of the season may be ruled out of the tournament.

Wales suffered a second blow towards the end of the match when goal-kicking full-back Leigh Halfpenny also departed on a medical cart in pain, clutching his already heavily-strapped right knee.

Former Wales and British and Irish Lions back Dafydd James was at the game for BBC Radio Wales and gives his verdict on the team.

Concerns turn from pitch to treatment room

"Halfpenny coming off the field with what looked a heavily strapped knee injury is a big problem.

Leigh Halfpenny

"It looked very innocuous. I've seen that happen to former Wales full-back Kevin Morgan playing up in Scotland one year when he tore his ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] - I wouldn't like to say that he's done that, however it doesn't bode well.

"Rhys Webb is another blow and anybody who goes off using gas and air is not in a good way.

"Warren Gatland didn't pull fly-half Dan Biggar off the pitch, I'm very surprised about that. I would have wrapped him up in cotton-wool, especially when you had two of your big names going down on the field - why do you want to put another one in that predicament?"

The Verdict


15 Leigh Halfpenny: His injury is a massive worry for Wales. He's exceeded the 500-point mark for his country during the game, he is very pivotal for Welsh hopes during the World Cup. He's a long-range goal-kicker, he's a bundle of energy and he's dynamite when he gets going.

14 Alex Cuthbert: He tried to get involved in the game a lot. He has bags of pace but unfortunately the ball wasn't distributed across the line. He probably needs to get the ball in his hands, the guys have to get the ball to him - he's a confidence player.

Alex Cuthbert

13 Cory Allen: He needed a run-out but I'm still not overly convinced with him, needs that game time to get into the game. He had one or two tackles, looked a little bit out of place on a couple of occasions in his positioning but he has the physical capabilities and speed to cause a lot of problems.

12 Scott Williams: Is always there or thereabouts and was deservedly man-of-the-match.

11 George North: Finished his try very well. He's a power player, he looks as though he's getting back into a bit of form, quite light on his feet and I was particularly impressed with his work-rate.

10 Dan Biggar: Always influential and instrumental. He's one of the players along with Webb and Halfpenny who is a first name on the team-sheet. Immaculate goal-kicking and pin-point accuracy with field positions. He's extraordinary in the air, you would have thought he was a full-back taking the ball high and he's very brave.

9 Rhys Webb: He's a valuable part of the dynamics of the team. He's been pivotal to the season and he'll leave a big void if he's ruled out. He gave 100%, as always, but it's hard to judge a player on 25 minutes.

Leonardo Sarto try for Italy


1 Gethin Jenkins: Gethin with 115 caps for Wales speaks for himself really, you don't get that amount of caps and five Lions Tests without fantastic performances.

2 Ken Owens: I like him, he's dynamite, he's a cannonball, he gets around the field. Suspect really with his line-out throwing sometimes, which I think he needs to sort out. I like him as a first choice.

3 Tomas Francis: Not being overcritical, he's there, he's come up from Exeter but for me he didn't look fit enough to be quite honest. I saw him walking round the field a few times, however they're on the back of a game against Ireland last week and they need to recover quickly. But I think he's one for the future, certainly.

4 Jake Ball: The main man at lock is going to be Alun Wyn Jones with the others fighting for the scraps. Jake Ball puts in a couple of big hits and... he's probably going to get the edge there, but I wasn't overly convinced with both second-rows today.

5 Dominic Day: I think he's going to be more of a fill-in on the bench possibly, and that's not being derogatory - I'm a big fan, he's a big, athletic man applying his trade for Bath in the English Premiership and he's come on leaps and bounds.

Sam Warburton

6 James King: Workmanlike, he got around the field, a big guy he's a line-out option. I didn't see a massive amount of work but it's always easy to watch the video over again to see the type of work he put in - he could be the next Richard Hill [England and Lions blind-side great] for Wales.

7 Taulupe Faletau: Great for the first 20 minutes then he took his eye off the ball a little bit - he dropped the ball several times, missed one or two tackles. That can happen but I like him, he's energetic, he's robust and he's physical.

8 Sam Warburton (capt): He gets around the field, very dynamic, powerful, looks energetic, very vocal. He galvanises that team, that's why Gatland has made him captain. He's got the turnovers and he's instrumental in the way Wales want to play.

Selected replacements:

Kristian Dacey: I haven't seen a great deal of Dacey for my liking, but for our first-choice hooker I'd say it has to be Ken Owens.

Luke Charteris: I was particularly impressed with him. He's 6ft 10in and he gets around the field well with 19 stone of muscle.

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Ross Moriarty: A man chomping at Faletau's heels is Moriarty. He didn't have a great game the first game against Ireland but that could have been the blend of the back-row. I like the way he came on against, he was a bundle of energy, bustling through the midfield area and eh was sensational - put in a couple of big hits and put the Italian centre off.

Gareth Davies: He's a fantastic player, hasn't had a lot of game time really for both Scarlets and Wales. I think he was number two but he's going to step up to number one if Rhys Webb doesn't regain fitness rather rapidly. But I would be very surprised if Mike Phillips doesn't come into the squad.

Rhys Priestland: A bit disappointed he didn't come onto the field, I would have brought Biggar off, however Gatland wanted to win the game.

Matthew Morgan: Another bundle of energy - he got the ball on his own 10-metre line, opened up and the crowd got on their feet. A little chip downfield and the gas to chase it. One thing that goes against him is his size, we saw that in the last passage of play when he should have gone low on the Italian try-scorer Guglielmo Palazzani.

Dafydd James was talking to BBC Wales Sport's Nick Webb.

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