Winners and losers from Wales Rugby World Cup squad

Wales: Jac Morgan, Dewi Lake, Warren Gatland, Kieran Hardy and Taine Plumtree - Rugby World Cup Credit: Alamy
Wales: Jac Morgan, Dewi Lake, Warren Gatland, Kieran Hardy and Taine Plumtree - Rugby World Cup Credit: Alamy

Following the announcement on Monday of Wales’ 33-man Rugby World Cup squad, we pick out our winners and losers from the selection.

Head coach Warren Gatland has selected 19 forwards and 14 backs for the competition, and there were several surprises in the final squad of players.

Here are our Wales winners and losers from the squad announcement.



After former skippers Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric announced their retirements from international rugby earlier this year, Gatland had to decide on new leadership for the global showpiece in France and eventually opted for Dewi Lake (hooker) and Jac Morgan (flanker) as co-captains.

The Ospreys duo are inexperienced at international level and have a combined total of 20 Test caps between them, but they shared the captaincy duties during Wales’ recent Rugby World Cup warm-up games against England and South Africa.

Although Lake sustained a knee injury early on in the second encounter against England, he will be fit for the World Cup. He is highly rated as a leader in his country, with Wales legend Jonathan ‘Jiffy’ Davies predicting earlier this year that the 24-year-old will eventually captain the national side, and those have proven to be prophetic words.

Meanwhile, 23-year-old Morgan seems tailor-made for the leadership role as he possesses an astute rugby brain. He reads the game well and is a quick learner despite his inexperience in the Test arena. He was one of Wales’ best players in their 20-9 win over England in Cardiff, and his performance was one of the few positives during a heavy loss to the Springboks in Cardiff on Saturday.

George North

The experienced utility back only played during Wales’ opening World Cup warm-up encounter against England in Cardiff, but he caught the eye with a solid all-round performance and was rewarded with his inclusion in Gatland’s squad.

It will be a momentous occasion for the 31-year-old – who is Wales’ most-capped senior men’s back with 114 appearances – as he is the only player in the squad who is set to compete in his fourth Rugby World Cup.

Rio Dyer

The 23-year-old must have thought his chances of making the cut for Wales’ World Cup squad were over after he conceded a penalty try which also led to him receiving a yellow card late in the opening half in Saturday’s defeat against the Springboks.

However, he came back strongly when he returned to action and caught the eye with some strong attacking runs, which was a rarity against a dominant Bok side.

Dyer eventually finished with a team-high 69 metres gained from 10 runs which included three line breaks and five defenders beaten – a performance which booked his place on the flight to France.

Experienced injured duo

Taulupe Faletau and Gareth Anscombe are the only members of the Wales World Cup squad who have not featured in any of their three warm-up matches, as both have been sidelined through injury.

Faletau has been sidelined with a calf injury and is the only specialist number eight in Gatland’s squad, although Aaron Wainwright and Tommy Reffell are able to provide cover.

Meanwhile, Anscombe is recovering from a thumb injury but has been included as one of three fly-halves – along with Dan Biggar and Sam Costelow – although the former New Zealand U20 representative will also be an option at full-back.

Less experienced injured duo

Wales hooker Ryan Elias and second-row Daffyd Jenkins are also currently on the crocked list, but despite those injuries, Gatland has rewarded the duo with positions in his 33-man World Cup selection.

Elias was forced off the field during the early stages of Wales’ win over England in Cardiff with a hamstring injury, while Jenkins sustained a knee problem in the second half of that match.

Despite those injuries, both are unlikely to feature in Wales’ World Cup opener against Fiji in Bordeaux on September 10.

Sam Costelow

The young playmaker has only made four Test appearances for his country, but despite his inexperience in the international arena, Gatland has backed him to do a job as one of Wales’ three fly-halves at the World Cup – alongside Dan Biggar and Anscombe.

The Scarlets fly-half impressed on attack in Wales’ win over England in Cardiff, and even though he battled in that department against South Africa, he caught the eye with accurate goal-kicking in that match.

He is also expected to provide the cover for a third scrum-half, even though the 22-year-old has only played in the position as cover during matches and has never started in that position.

Midfield trio

With North assured of his place in Wales’ squad as one of the centres, the big question was who would join him as the midfield options and in the end, Gatland opted for Nick Tompkins, Johnny Williams and Mason Grady.

Tompkins played for an hour against England at Twickenham, and although he did not set the world alight, he has been a solid performer for his country in the past, and those performances probably got him into the squad.

Meanwhile, it will be a momentous occasion for Williams when he takes to the field in France as he was battling testicular cancer during the 2019 World Cup in France.

Grady had some good moments off the bench against England in Cardiff before starting alongside Williams against the Boks at the weekend, and although they battled throughout that encounter, they’ve still made the cut and will be determined to show improvement in France.


Taine Plumtree

The former New Zealand U20 and Blues Super Rugby Pacific player was a controversial call-up to Gatland’s squad a few months ago but gave a good account of himself in both games against England.

However, despite some fine touches in that second encounter at Twickenham , the back-row sustained a shoulder injury in the match and was forced off the field early in the second half.

Although he is set to recover in time for the World Cup, he was left out of Wales’ squad, with Gatland hinting that the 24-year-old could be called up during the tournament if there are injuries to the current crop of players in his squad.

Alex Cuthbert

After being named to start in the warm-up game against South Africa on Saturday in Cardiff, the experienced flyer withdrew from that fixture due to a calf injury.

That would have been Cuthbert’s first bit of action in the warm-up games, but it looks like that injury is worse than initially feared, and Gatland has opted not to risk Cuthbert at the global showpiece.

It means the 33-year-old misses out on his second successive World Cup – as he was also left out for the 2019 competition in Japan – after featuring at the 2015 tournament in England.

Kieran Hardy

The 27-year-old is probably the unluckiest player to miss out on selection to the World Cup as Gatland has opted to take just two scrum-halves to the World Cup, with Tomos Williams and Gareth Davies being the preferred number nines

Things have not gone his way in recent weeks as he was forced to withdraw from the matchday squad against England at Twickenham due to a health scare with his young daughter.

Hardy started the clash against the Boks but battled to find his feet behind a retreating pack which meant he was the scrum-half who was left out of the squad, with Gatland opting to take an extra outside back instead.

Second-row trio

The second-row trio of Ben Carter, Rhys Davies and Teddy Williams were all given opportunities during Wales’ three World Cup warm-up matches, but they failed to impress Gatland enough to earn selection in his 33-man squad

Carter received game-time off the bench in the first game against England and started against the Springboks, while Davies was in the run-on side against the Red Rose at Twickenham.

Neither caught the eye in those fixtures, while Williams made his Test debut off the bench against the Boks but had little chance to impress as he was yellow-carded shortly after entering the fray.

Owen Williams

After being a regular in Wales’ matchday squads during the Six Nations – and starting two of those Tests against England and Italy – Williams finds himself surplus to requirements and misses out on a World Cup spot, with Costelow preferred to him.

Williams was in Wales’ run-on side for their second warm-up against England but failed to stamp his authority on that match and was replaced by Biggar early in the second half, and there was a big improvement in Wales’ attacking play, although they ultimately suffered a narrow loss on the day.

There was no second chance for Williams in the next match against the Boks, and he also misses out on the trip to France.

Tom Rogers

Although he put in a solid performance in the second warm-up match against England at Twickenham, the young Scarlets flyer probably blew his chance with an underwhelming display in the clash against the Boks in Cardiff on Saturday.

Rogers struggled on defence and was caught out a couple of occasions, and both times the Boks were rewarded with tries through his mistakes.

READ MORE: All the 2023 Rugby World Cup squads and team updates

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