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The World Cup Countdown: Wales at the Rugby World Cup

Taulupe Faletau was yards off it a few weeks ago – but now he’s up to speed for Wales and Fiji had better beware!

That’s the message coming out of the Wales camp as the countdown begins to their World Cup opener against the Flying Fijians in Bordeaux on Sunday.

Faletau didn’t go on the summer training camps to Switzerland and Turkey because of a long-standing calf muscle injury.

Wales coach Warren Gatland admitted when the Lions and Cardiff No.8 first returned to training he was struggling to keep up.

“He (Faletau) has been taking a full part in training for the past three weeks,” said Gatland ahead of the crunch tie against Fiji.

“There is 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 has taken a little bit of time, but we’ve kept a close eye on his GPS figures and they have been excellent for him.

Co-captain Dewi Lake has also been an injury worry for Wales after the hooker suffered a knee injury during Wales’ defeat against England at Twickenham.

But he’s now been declared fit along with Ryan Elias, Dafydd Jenkins and Gareth Anscombe.

“The last couple of weeks we’ve had a few niggles – we had eight or 10 players not taking a full part in training,” Gatland said.

“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.

“Even though he hasn’t been running around, he has done a lot of off-feet conditioning. Some of the work on the side of the pitch is harder than being on the pitch, and he is definitely in contention for the weekend.”

Lake departed during the first half at Twickenham, and the hooker added: “It always plays on your mind when you come off injured 20 minutes into a game.

“I am very grateful to be sat here, to the medical staff who got me through the three weeks at home and the coaching staff for selecting me post-injury.

“A lot of hard work has gone on behind the scenes to get me ready for this weekend.”

Wales trained amid temperatures of more than 30 degrees on Tuesday, while the forecast for Sunday’s encounter is for 28 degrees at kick-off, even though the game does not start until 9pm local time.

It is understood that World Cup organisers are considering water breaks during the opening round of pool fixtures.

“We would like the ball on the park as often as we could. We think we’re in pretty good shape physically,” Gatland said.

“In terms of that, we are not going to push back on water breaks if that’s what is decided. We won’t be arguing with World Rugby on that decision.”

Fiji are fresh from an outstanding away victory over England, and they are fancied by many to beat a Wales side with just three wins from 13 Tests.

But they have suffered a major blow – the loss of fly-half Caleb Muntz for the entire tournament.

Muntz has been ruled out of Rugby World Cup 2023 after sustaining a knee injury during the team’s training run on Monday.

Head coach Simon Raiwalui confirmed the 23-year-old sustained the injury in a non-contact session and will miss the tournament.

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