Saturday 24 August 2019

Williams injury opens Welsh door for Roberts recall

Wales's Liam Williams. Photo: PA
Wales's Liam Williams. Photo: PA newsdesk

Wales have suffered a major blow ahead of Saturday's clash with New Zealand after Liam Williams was ruled out with an abdominal injury.

Williams, who has played at wing and full-back in Wales's games against Australia and Georgia, will also miss the match against South Africa next weekend, while Cardiff Blues wing Alex Cuthbert has been sent back to his club with a calf strain.

As a result of Williams's injury, Scarlets full-back Leigh Halfpenny is almost certain to start, and with George North already out, Steffan Evans and Hallam Amos are likely to be named on the wings.

One boost for Wales is that openside flanker Justin Tipuric is back in training and could make his first appearance of the November Tests, but tighthead Samson Lee is unlikely to feature as he continues his return from an Achilles injury.

Williams's loss adds to the existing absence of Jonathan Davies (foot injury) and could encourage Warren Gatland to restructure his midfield again.

Scott Williams of Scarlets and Harlequins's Jamie Roberts were initially left out of the squad, but returned after injuries ruled out Tyler Morgan and Davies.

Gloucester back Owen Williams had been expected to start at inside centre to give Gatland the 10-12 playmaker link that he has desired since working with Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell with the Lions, but without Davies to provide pace and power outside them, Roberts could find himself back in the starting line-up at inside centre.

The All Blacks have suffered a setback of their own with back-row Ardie Savea put into isolation at their Cardiff base after contracting mumps.

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But assistant coach Ian Foster said there was no concern that the highly-contagious viral disease might spread.

"Ardie has got a mild dose of the mumps," Foster said. "He is the only one. He is in his room and has been in isolation.

"He was fully vaccinated as a kid, but he clearly has something. He has been in isolation for a few days and is recovering pretty quickly."

Savea is thought to have contracted mumps from wing Rieko Ioane, who received treatment for it earlier during the All Blacks' tour. Foster also confirmed that captain Kieran Read did not train yesterday.

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