Thursday 10 October 2019 7:05 pm

Ollie Phillips: World Cup fixture cancellation disadvantages Wales but France mutiny can go either way

Typhoon Hagibis may not have directly affected Wales’s Rugby World Cup fixtures but the tropical cyclone has still managed to leave them at a considerable disadvantage.

If, as expected, Wales win their final group match against Uruguay on Sunday they will finish top of Pool D and set up a quarter-final clash with the runner-up in Pool C, France, on 20 October in Oita. 

Although Wales head coach Warren Gatland will be pleased with the draw, the cancellation of England’s game against France on Saturday is a positive for the French who, having already qualified for the knockout stages, would have been on a hiding to nothing in Yokohama.

Read more: Lawrence Dallaglio on England’s World Cup chances

Instead, the intervention of poor weather means France will have had the luxury of a two-week break between their 23-21 win over Tonga and the quarter-final next Sunday. In my experience you don’t lose match sharpness over that kind of period and not playing is definitely preferable to overplaying.  

Battered and bruised

That gap is in stark contrast to Wales, who were forced to battle to a 29-17 victory over Fiji on Wednesday and now face Uruguay this weekend. By the time they play France it will be three Test matches in 11 days. 

Wales' fly-half Dan Biggar (R) reacts after an injury during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool D match between Wales and Fiji at the Oita Stadium in Oita on October 9, 2019. (Photo by CHRISTOPHE SIMON / AFP) (Photo by CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP via Getty Images)
Dan Biggar sustained a second head injury of the tournament against Fiji and will miss the Uruguay game (Getty Images)

Wales did well to come through and beat Fiji after being 10-0 down, but they made lots of basic errors and were left battered and bruised by the encounter.

After being forced off in the win over Australia, fly-half Dan Biggar suffered a second head injury and has been ruled out of the Uruguay game, which will be a worry for Gatland. Winger Josh Adams got a dead leg, while the knee injury to centre Jonathan Davies could be a real problem as he’s absolutely vital. 

The positive for Wales is that they haven’t hit their straps yet and they came out on the winning side of the best game of the tournament so far against Australia. They showed their maturity and found a way to wrestle back control, and I think they’ve got more to give.

Galvanised or ready to crumble?

France's head coach Jacques Brunel (L) speaks with the assistant coach Fabien Galthie at the end of a training session at the Suizenji Athletic Field in Kumamoto, on October 8, 2019, during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)
Jacques Brunel has lost the dressing room, with many players siding with captain Guilhem Guirado (Getty Images)

France will be fresh as daisies next Sunday, but they are in disarray with coach Jacques Brunel reportedly at loggerheads with captain Guilhem Guirado. 

They have won all three of their games so far but haven’t impressed and their shambolic situation could go either way. Will the French be galvanised and fired up by the discord, or will they crumble?

Gatland is a pragmatic man and if Wales can get past Uruguay without drama on Sunday then his side will be fully prepared to topple the French in the next round.

Former England Sevens captain Ollie Phillips is a director within the real estate & construction team at PwC and founder of Optimist Performance. Follow Ollie on Twitter and on LinkedIn

Main image credit: Getty Images