Sunday 22 April 2018

Chris Coleman describes Wales as in "pretty good condition" as Ireland grapple with injury crisis

Wales' Gareth Bale during a training session at the Vale Resort, Hensol today
Wales' Gareth Bale during a training session at the Vale Resort, Hensol today

Phil Blanche

Chris Coleman has described Wales as in "pretty good condition" after avoiding the injury problems which have beset World Cup rivals the Republic of Ireland.

Ireland have had to contend with a catalogue of injuries ahead of Friday's crunch Group D qualifier at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

Striker Daryl Murphy has become the latest Republic casualty in joining injured quartet Shane Duffy, Ciaran Clark, Wes Hoolahan and Harry Arter, as well as the suspended Robbie Brady, on the sidelines.

Wales lost in-form Ipswich frontman Tom Lawrence to a hip injury on Monday, with his place taken by Liverpool youngster Harry Wilson.

But every member of Coleman's 23-man squad trained on Tuesday morning, including Liverpool's rising star Ben Woodburn.

The 17-year-old striker joined the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey at their Vale of Glamorgan base for the first time, and third-placed Wales appear in good health as they attempt to close the four-point gap on group leaders the Republic.

"We are a very good team when we're at our best and at our strongest," manager Coleman said.

"We need these players on the pitch consistently and we're in pretty good condition.

"The squad might have looked different two or three months ago.

"But we've got players back, and I've picked those who have been on the front foot and are most ready for this challenge."

Bale has already scored four times in this World Cup campaign to move within two of equalling Ian Rush's 28-goal Wales record.

The Real Madrid forward's recent comeback from ankle surgery is a huge boost for Wales, as is Arsenal midfielder Ramsey's return from a calf strain.

Ramsey was arguably Wales' best player in their march to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 last summer.

But his World Cup contribution so far has been minimal, with injury ruling him out of the opening three qualifiers.

"In these first four games we've only had Aaron in one of them," Coleman said.

"That's tough for us, and we've only had Joe Allen for two and a bit as well.

"We're looking forward to having Rambo back. He's had game time at Arsenal and he's feeling good."

This is Wales' first game since Coleman turned down overtures to take over his home town club Swansea at the turn of the year.

And Cardiff defender Jazz Richards says that decision came as a huge boost to a squad seeking to secure Wales' first World Cup qualification since the 1958 finals in Sweden.

"You can look at Gareth, Aaron, Ashley Williams and Joe Allen - all top quality players," Richards told Press Association Sport at a 'Lidl Play More Football' event.

"But what's made us do as well as we've done is the manager.

"He was a player himself and he understands the lads.

"He's a very strong part of how well we've done over the last few years.

"Ireland are tough opponents, but we've beaten the best teams in the world before.

"There are still a lot of games to play and I think we can still achieve qualification. It's not over by a long shot."

Online Editors

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport