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Warren Gatland challenges Wales players to earn World Cup starting spot

Warren Gatland challenges Wales players to earn World Cup starting spot
© Reuters
Wales conclude their World Cup warm-up schedule with a trip to Dublin.

Warren Gatland says it is important that Wales are "rugby-ready" as they move towards their World Cup opener against Georgia.

Wales complete a busy tournament warm-up schedule by tackling Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

And head coach Gatland will parade many of his big names, including five British and Irish Lions Test players.

There are eight survivors from the starting XV that secured Six Nations title and Grand Slam success by beating Ireland in Cardiff just over five months ago.

And 15 changes following last weekend's home defeat against Ireland include a start for Scarlets fly-half Rhys Patchell.

Patchell apart, the team features captain Alun Wyn Jones, wing George North, centre Jonathan Davies and openside flanker Justin Tipuric.

Wales v South Africa – Autumn International – Principality Stadium
Tomos Williams will get a chance to impress in Dublin (Mike Egerton/PA)

There are also opportunities in Dublin, meanwhile, for scrum-half Tomos Williams, prop Wyn Jones and hooker Elliot Dee.

"This is our final preparation match, so it is important we get enough rugby into us and get rugby-ready ahead of our RWC opener against Georgia, which is just over two weeks away," Gatland said.

"It is important we hit the ground running in Japan and we give the players enough time on the field.

"Saturday is the first time these players would have taken to the field as members of the RWC squad.

Scarlets v RC Toulon – European Champions Cup – Pool Three – Parc y Scarlets
Scarlets' Rhys Patchell, centre, had an injury-hit last season (Andrew Matthews/PA)

"It has been a big week, and it is a big opportunity for players to put their hand up and secure spots for the starting XV in Japan."

Patchell endured an injury-hit campaign last season, suffering from concussion issues and then a hamstring problem, and he has not made a Test start for almost 15 months.

Those setbacks stalled his international hopes, but he delivered an impressive try-scoring display off the bench five days ago.

And that performance helped him nudge out Jarrod Evans for a place in Gatland's 31-man World Cup squad.

The eight players in Gatland's squad not involved this weekend are Hallam Amos, Owen Watkin, Aled Davies, Rhys Carre, Ryan Elias, Cory Hill, Aaron Shingler and James Davies.

Wales kick off their World Cup campaign against Georgia in Toyota City, Japan, on September 23, which is followed by a potentially-pivotal Pool D appointment with Australia in Tokyo six days later.

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Warren Gatland pictured in August 2019
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