The most interesting week of World Cup warm-ups

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Wales return to playing action next weekend after coming back from a nine-day warm weather training camp in Turkey to play Ireland at the Principality Stadium.

With Warren Gatland naming his 31-man squad that will travel to Japan the day after Saturday’s game it is a last chance for players to impress, but interestingly likely to be the first chance for many to impress at the same time.

Having replicated the six-day turnaround between the pool stage games against Georgia and Australia when facing England in the first two warm-up games, the thinking is that we will now see some faces who as of yet have been consigned to a watching brief.

For two of the players in that category it would also be their first taste of international rugby, with Cardiff Blues academy graduates Rhys Carre and Owen Lane waiting to make their debuts at this level.

Both will certainly fancy their chances of making the 31-man squad, offering something very different in their styles of play, as well as the exuberance of youth both on and off-the-field.

With Lane the rise would be an impressive one, from a talented young player making his way through the pathway to international cap in the space of 18 months, with 17 tries in 39 Cardiff Blues appearances along the way.

His mix of pace and power, along with a natural instinct for finishing, makes him an ideal choice for Gatland, while the fact that he played the majority of his youth rugby at outside centre gives him the versatility that is required in a World Cup squad.

Owen Lane Wales training

The 21-year-old should really have been in two Welsh squads before now but injury has ruled him out, however he is now ready to make his mark and should five back three players be the decision of the coaches, then betting on Lane would not be a bad investment.

Carre, on the other hand, would be a meteoric rise, from a player who 12 months ago was leaving the Wales U20 scene with plenty of plaudits to someone who is set to be playing for the best club team in Europe very shortly.

His ball carrying abilities are more similar to those of a marauding back rower than a loosehead prop, and after three months with Robin McBryde his scrummaging technique should take another step forward, harnessing that sheer power at the set piece.

He offers something different than Nicky Smith, Rob Evans and Wyn Jones but, and it’s a big but, his experience of starting in senior professional level comes from just two games; against Lyon is a dead rubber Heineken Champions Cup game, and Edinburgh during the Six Nations period.

There are others in the squad who will also be keen to show Gatland what they can do on the field, with Leon Brown, Bradley Davies, James Davies, Jarrod Evans, Rhys Patchell, Scott Williams, Hallam Amos, Jonah Holmes and Steff Evans all with little or no game time so far.

However, keep an eye on the two Cardiff Blues academy graduates Carre and Lane as they try to prove that it’s their talent, not their inexperience, that should be the talking point when it comes to squad selection.

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