Wales forecast good after stormy Rugby World Cup start

Wales 43-14 Georgia: three of the best tries from six-try victory
World Cup – Pool D: Wales v Australia
Venue: Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo Date: Sunday, 29 September Kick-off: 08:45 BST
Coverage: Full commentary on every Wales game across BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru, BBC Radio 5 Live and Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, plus text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.

The storm passed and Wales emerged from it unscathed.

Typhoon Tapah had pummelled Japan’s southern island of Kyushu but further north in Toyota, where Wales faced Georgia in their opening World Cup fixture, there was little more than a light breeze.

A comprehensive win amid calm – albeit humid – conditions came as a relief for Wales, who had already navigated a tempest of their own in the build-up to this game.

Just six days before the start of their campaign, backs coach Rob Howley was sent home following an alleged breach of betting regulations, seemingly plunging Welsh preparations for the tournament into disarray.

But this is a resilient Wales side, forged in adversity.

During the Six Nations earlier this year, players put aside the disruption of merger talks between two of their main regional sides Ospreys and Scarlets – and the potential loss of jobs – to secure a hard-earned victory over Scotland in Edinburgh.

That set them up for a Grand Slam triumph and, here on world rugby’s grandest stage, they were similarly robust in the face of off-field turbulence.

Yes, this was a Georgian side Wales were expected to beat – but the context was significant and the chaotic backdrop to this fixture might have derailed lesser teams.

Instead, it galvanised Wales.

Head coach Warren Gatland will end his 12 years with Wales after the World Cup

Players need no added motivation at a World Cup, though head coach Warren Gatland praised senior figures for shouldering more responsibility following Howley’s departure, while forwards coach Robin McBryde described the squad as “circling the wagons” as they harnessed a siege mentality to combat the outside noise.

“You just have to draw a line in the sand and move on. You can’t change the past and what’s happened. You have to look forward,” said Gatland.

“I said to the players beforehand, I thought they’ve been outstanding this week.

“The way they’ve prepared for this match, the way they’ve trained.

“The way the senior players have stepped up. Everyone was really looking forward to getting out on the pitch.”

Life after Howley

The departure of Howley, who had been by Gatland’s side throughout his 12-year tenure with Wales, was unmistakably the end of an era for this side.

And yet in this time of change, one of the most pronounced features of Wales’ dominant first-half display against Georgia was continuity.

Jonathan Davies and Josh Adams’ tries both came from the first phase of plays, each score flowing in its build-up and precise in its execution.

Stephen Jones, drafted in as Howley’s replacement, had only been working with the squad a few days, though these moves demonstrated how the players had helped make the transition a smooth one by taking leading roles in training.

Wales backs coach Stephen Jones has ‘come in seamlessly’ – wing Josh Adams

Gatland was pleased, even if he felt like something – or more pertinently someone – was missing as he watched from the stands without Howley.

“It was definitely strange,” he said.

“You’ve just got to give Stephen as much support as you possibly can.

“He’s fitted in seamlessly. He’s been doing a good job.

“It was a little bit strange but you have to think and move forward.”

Ready for the Wallabies?

Wales were at full strength for this encounter but Gatland will have had one eye on what is likely to be the Pool D decider against Australia on Sunday.

A commanding 29-0 half-time lead against Georgia gave the New Zealander the luxury of being able to replace his leading players after the interval, in order to give them some additional rest before facing the Wallabies.

And while Gatland did use his bench, the changes were not unusually sweeping or early.

They did, however, contribute to a fragmented final quarter in which Wales failed to reproduce their fluent first-half form against a reinvigorated Georgian side.

George North reaction to Wales’ win over Georgia

“I thought we were pretty clinical [in the first half] and probably let things slip a bit in the second half,” said Gatland.

“That probably did not help because we were losing some continuity and making some changes with the subs and bringing people off, trying to think about keeping players as fresh as we possibly can with the six-day turnaround.”

The match against Australia will have a major bearing on both sides’ World Cup prospects, with the victor likely to top the pool and earn a potentially more favourable draw in the knockout stages.

Wales will enter the fixture with greater belief than they might have done a year ago, with their win over the Wallabies in Cardiff last November ending a 13-match losing streak against the Australians which stretched back to 2009.

“I think we can take a lot of confidence from that, they’re a tough side,” said Gatland.

“It’s tough with a six-day turnaround, and I know all teams have to face it at some point in this competition, the short turnaround period.

“We’ve got to make sure we recover well and then start really planning and looking forward to what will be a tough fixture against Australia.

“We have a few things up our sleeve that we haven’t shown yet, that will hopefully be ready for next week.”

Can’t see this selector? Visit this page: Pick your Wales XV to play Australia

All pictures in the selector from Huw Evans Images.

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