Rugby World Cup 2023: Wales coach Warren Gatland says all players fit to face Fiji

Warren Gatland surveys his players before a game
Warren Gatland is in charge of Wales at a fourth World Cup

Rugby World Cup 2023: Fiji v Wales

Venue: Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux Date: Sunday, 10 Sept Kick-off: 20:00 BST

Coverage: Live BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds, BBC Sport website & app; live text commentary on BBC Sport website & app.

Wales coach Warren Gatland says all his players are fit for selection to face Fiji in their World Cup opener on Sunday in Bordeaux.

All the players in the 33-man squad trained in the early part of the session on Tuesday.

Co-captain Dewi Lake, Taulupe Faletau, Ryan Elias, Dafydd Jenkins and Gareth Anscombe were injury doubts.

Gatland will name his side on Friday in Bordeaux, a day after the squad travel there from their Versailles base.

"Everyone is fit," said Gatland.

"The last couple of weeks we've had a few niggles. We had eight or 10 players not taking a full part in training. Nothing serious, but just a few bumps.

"They've all been rehabbed and everyone is now fit which is a positive place for us to be in."

Lake, Jenkins and Elias picked up injuries during Wales' three World Cup warm-up games.

Faletau and Anscombe were not involved at all because of calf and hand problems respectively.

Gatland admitted he still had decisions to make about his 23-man squad to face Fiji.

"What's really positive about this group at the moment is there's going to be a few disappointed players," said Gatland.

"There's lots of options for us. You want tough calls. You don't want to be able to quickly pick your 15 or 23.

"You want to have robust debate in the coaching group about what you think the best combination should be. I think that's definitely going to happen."

Faletau fit for purpose

Number eight Faletau has played 100 internationals for Wales and is one of the world-class players in the Wales squad.

"That experience comes into consideration," said Gatland.

"He's been taking a full part in training for the past three weeks.

"There's no doubt in the first week he was blowing pretty hard in terms of some of the set-piece stuff the boys have been doing for a number of weeks.

"That's taken a little bit of time, but we've kept a close eye on his GPS figures and they've been excellent for him.

"It was a shame he picked up that injury because he'd done a lot of work with Tomos Williams.

"They'd been training prior to coming into the mini camps in the Vale.

"Even though he hasn't been running around, he's done a lot of off-feet conditioning. They've been pushing him pretty hard.

"Some of the work on the side of the pitch is harder than being on the pitch. They've worked him incredibly hard and he's definitely in contention for the weekend."

Final ambition

Gatland is preparing for his fifth World Cup and fourth in charge of Wales. This seemed an unlikely prospect at the end of the 2019 tournament in Japan when Gatland finished his first stint in charge of Wales.

But after returning for a second spell in December 2022 when he replaced Wayne Pivac, Gatland is raring to go and targeting a first World Cup final.

"I didn't expect to be here, but I'm really looking forward to this," said Gatland.

"It's my fifth World Cup. We've made a couple of semi-finals and it would be nice to go one better."

Gatland said a few weeks ago Wales would surprise people at the World Cup and do something special and he doubled down on that now he is in France.

"We've worked incredibly hard over the last few months," said Gatland.

"We've been preparing well for Fiji in the last couple of weeks. We've had some good clarity in the last few days about what we want to achieve and get out of that, having a good look at them.

"The boys looked sharp this afternoon, which is pleasing. For them to be sharp on day one, we probably covered a little bit more than we expected. I think we're in a good place.

"The boys are happy. There's a great environment in the group, with boys getting on with each other."

After their Pool C opener against Fiji, Wales face further group games against Portugal, Australia and Georgia with all Gatland's side's rivals familiar foes on the global stage.

"The ultimate pinnacle is the World Cup," said Gatland.

"It's the one time in international windows that you get full preparation. It feels like you're working with a club side in having a pre-season.

"That's the most challenging thing in a Six Nations or autumn campaign. You get a couple of weeks with most of the squad, and then a week with the full squad, so you have to prioritise what you can cover in that limited preparation time.

"We've been able to work on a lot of things in the last few months in terms of the detail and putting together a strategy, but also making sure we've not done just the hard work but worked hard on other aspects of the game."