World Cup Preview: Wales v USA

Wales and USA have named their 19-man squads for the Rugby League World Cup match in Wrexham this Sunday (kick-off 2pm).

The Welsh need to win to have any chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals and organisers are expecting a near full house at The Racecourse to cheer them on.

Local fans will be pleased that North Wales Crusaders’ Christiaan Roets is in the squad after missing out on a place in Cardiff last week. He replaces Rhodri Lloyd while Ross Divorty and potential debutant Anthony Walker are also included.

USA come into this match after a 32-20 win over Cook Islands on Wednesday, while Wales need to bounce back after losing 32-16 to Italy on the opening day last Saturday.

“We’ve had a good week and preparations have been going well,” said Harris. “We’ve a couple of things we need to work on but the boys are really gelling after a couple of weeks together.

“We were a little bit of the pace against Italy. Rugby League is a game of small margins and we weren’t quite where we wanted to be. I’m excepting the players to be a lot more up to speed this week because they’ve trained exceptionally well.

“By Sunday I expect those areas to have been ironed out and that we will be a lot more fluent in our attacking structure. I also want us to be a bit more aggressive with our line speed as well.

“There was a lot of effort against Italy but I thought at times we sent that energy in the wrong direction. We’ve spoken about that as a group yesterday and everyone in the squad now knows how to channel that energy and passion in the proper direction. We want a more consistent performance against the USA on Sunday – if we do that then we’re a match for anybody.”

Rhys Evans is again expected to start against at full-back and Wales coach Iestyn Harris was pleased with his performance last week.

“I think Rhys Evans has brought that little bit of x-factor which we’ve always wanted from the full-back position,” Harris said. “If he gets half a chance he can turn that into a break and finish it off and it is important to have that in your side.

“He hasn’t played a lot at full-back but his effort and desire was there for everybody to see. Like everyone there are things he has to work on and he knows what is required to take himself to the next level.”

Wales have met previously USA twice, both in 1995 when Wales won a two test series in Philadelphia with scores ending up 66-10 and 92-4, the latter still a Welsh record win.

Harris, who scored 30 of the points in the 66-10 victory, knows that it will be a lot tougher for Wales this time around.

“They’re a very organised and disciplined team and they’ve got good players throughout the squad,” he said. “The bulk of their squad is from Australia with some NRL experience thrown in there. The likes of Clint Newton and Eddy Pettyboune are going to be a handful and they’ve got other players of a very high standard.

“We’ve got to get to our best quickly and we didn’t do that against Italy. When you don’t do that against sides that have got good players you come unstuck and that’s what happened last weekend. We’ve got to make sure our performance is at the top level and if that’s the case, then we’ll give it a good go.”

WALES (from): Neil Budworth (Moranbah Miners), Ross Divorty (Halifax), Gil Dudson (Wigan Warriors), Jacob Emmitt (Salford Red Devils), Ben Evans (Bradford Bulls), Rhys Evans (Warrington Wolves), Ben Flower (Wigan Warriors), Tyson Frizell (St George Illawarra Dragons), Jordan James (Salford Red Devils), Elliot Kear (Bradford Bulls), Craig Kopzcak  (Huddersfield Giants), Peter Lupton (Workington Town), Larne Patrick (Huddersfield Giants), Christiaan Roets (North Wales Crusaders), Matt Seamark (Wynnum Manly Seagulls), Anthony Walker (St Helens), Ian Webster  (Central Queensland Capras), Lloyd White (Widnes Vikings), Rhys Williams (Warrington Wolves).

USA (from): Bureta Faraimo (MacKay Cutters), Kristian Freed (Connecticut Wildcats), Michael Garvey (Pennsylvania Bulls), Roman Hifo (Mangere East Hawks), Daniel Howard (Wentworthville Magpies), Judah Lavulo (Carbamatta), Haveatama Luani (Wests Tigers), David Marando (Belrose Eagles), Clint Newton (Penrith Panthers), Mark Offerdahl (AS Carcassonne), Joseph Paulo (Parramatta Eels), Matthew Petersen (Cudgen Hornets), Eddy Pettybourne (Wests Tigers), Craig Priestly (Southampton Dragons, USA), Tuisegasega Samoa (Redcliffe Dolphins), Matthew Shipway (Newcastle South), Les Soloai (Portland Hunters), Lelauloto Tagaloa (Hawaii Chiefs), Taylor Welch (Chicago Griffins).

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