By Nick Mulvenney
OITA, Japan (Reuters) – Wales received a huge boost on Friday when centre Jonathan Davies was passed fit to take his place in the side for the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against France after recovering from a knee injury.
With flyhalf Dan Biggar and winger George North also emerging from injury clouds, coach Warren Gatland was able to name his strongest side, the same starting line-up which took the field in the 29-25 win over Australia in the pool phase.
Centre Davies had been the biggest doubt after sustaining the knee injury in the subsequent match against Fiji, while Biggar took head knocks against the Wallabies and again when facing the Fijians.There was also a question mark over Davies’s centre partner Hadleigh Parkes, who has been playing with a fractured finger and hurt his shoulder against Uruguay, but Gatland said he had enjoyed the luxury of 31 fit players to choose from.
“As a squad, we’re pretty happy really,” the New Zealander said.
“There are still a couple of sore bodies but in a good state. Jonathan took a full part in Wednesday’s session, he fully trained today. We kept Hadleigh out of the rugby on Wednesday but they’re both fit.
“They’ll be ready to go on Sunday.”
North also sat out Wales’s final pool match against Uruguay because of a sore ankle but returned to full training this week and will face the French at Oita Stadium on Sunday.
In the back row, Gatland has reverted to the combination of youngster Aaron Wainwright at blindside, the experienced Justin Tipuric at openside and Josh Navidi in the number eight shirt with Ross Moriarty on the bench.
The one change from the Wallabies game came on the bench, where Rhys Carre replaced Nicky Smith as reserve loosehead prop.
“It’s just another game of rugby but we know how important it is,” Gatland added.
“We’re very focused on wanting to go out there and stay in this tournament. There is a lot of confidence in this squad. We haven’t given an 80 minute performance here.
“Anything could happen in international rugby (but) if you’re good enough, then you win the games.”
Team: 15-Liam Williams, 14-George North, 13-Jonathan Davies, 12-Hadleigh Parkes, 11-Josh Adams, 10-Dan Biggar, 9-Gareth Davies, 8-Josh Navidi, 7-Justin Tipuric, 6- Aaron Wainwright, 5-Alun Wyn Jones, 4-Jake Ball, 3-Tomas Francis, 2-Ken Owens, 1-Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16-Elliot Dee, 17-Rhys Carre, 18-Dillon Lewis, 19-Aaron Shingler, 20-Ross Moriarty, 21-Tomos Williams, 22-Rhys Patchell, 23-Owen Watkin
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)