Monday 16 September 2019

England World Cup blow as Bath wing ruled out of Wales clash

Ruaridh McConnochie of England
Ruaridh McConnochie of England

England suffered a late blow ahead of their World Cup warm-up clash against Wales in Cardiff after Ruaridh McConnochie was ruled out.

The Bath wing was due to make his Test debut at the Principality Stadium, but England announced on Saturday morning that he had failed a fitness test due to a hamstring problem.

McConnochie's Bath colleague Anthony Watson replaced him, while there were also starts for lock Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes, who packed down in the back row.

Fly-half Dan Biggar, lock Jake Ball and flanker James Davies were Wales' changes following a 33-19 defeat at Twickenham last weekend, with Davies being joined in the starting line-up by his brother Jonathan.

It then became Wales' turn to lose a player before a ball was kicked as Liam Williams was withdrawn after suffering an unspecified injury during the warm-up.

To fill the gap, Leigh Halfpenny was brought in from outside the 23 in his first Wales appearance since being concussed against Australia last November.

Halfpenny missed the entire Six Nations as a result of the head injury.

Wales controlled the opening quarter but were repeatedly kept at bay by England's aggressive defending.

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Ellis Genge produced a strong carry to sweep Eddie Jones' men out of trouble and, after going down several blind alleys, they built momentum once more with Joe Launchbury bursting into space.

It ultimately came to nothing and, although England were now fighting on equal terms, they trailed 3-1 on the penalty count.

Wales drew first blood through a Biggar penalty and they received another boost when Josh Navidi, on for the HIA-bound James Davies, turned over Joe Cokanasiga at the breakdown.

George Ford danced through the tightest of gaps but the defence rallied and, when Watson was shown a yellow for a deliberate knock-on, Wales reacted in an instant.

Two smart kicks by Biggar found first one wing in Josh Adams and then the other in George North, who caught the ball and strolled over before the fly-half converted to establish a 10-0 lead.

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