Alun Wyn Jones Rugby World Cup 2019: Who stands in Wales’ path to the final?

Alun Wyn Jones Rugby World Cup 2019: Who stands in Wales’ path to the final?

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Alun Wyn Jones Lock Alun Wyn Jones captains Wales and is playing in his fourth World Cup

Lock Alun Wyn Jones captains Wales and is playing in his fourth World Cup
World Cup – Pool D: Wales v Georgia
Venue:City of Toyota Stadium, Toyota CityDate:Monday, 23 SeptemberKick-off:11:15 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.

Wales begin their ninth World Cup campaign ranked amongst the favourites, despite a string of set-backs that in previous tournaments would have had them written off as contenders.

Warren Gatland’s side are without first-choice number eight Taulupe Faletau and fly-half Gareth Anscombe through injury, and had backs coach Rob Howley sent home from Japan for an alleged betting infringement – just six days before their opening game against Georgia.

But the strength in depth of Welsh rugby means that those two key playing positions are filled by British and Irish Lions – Ross Moriarty and Dan Biggar – while backs-coach-in-waiting Stephen Jones – who was set to take over from Howley after the tournament – has flown out to begin his tenure a couple of months early.

So having not so much rolled with the punches as absorbed them, Wales begin their campaign full of confidence and with real belief that this could be their year.

BBC Sport Wales looks at the teams and their star players who stand between Wales and the Webb Ellis Cup.

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Georgia (23 Sep, 11:15 BST; Toyota City)

Toulon forward Mamuka Gorgodze remains a big presence for Georgia in his fourth World Cup

Wales have met Georgia just once before, during the 2017 Autumn internationals where a second-string laboured to a 13-6 win over their visitors in Cardiff.

Despite two disappointing warm-up defeats to Scotland, Georgia are comfortably Europe’s strongest tier-two nation and eager to push their case to join the Six Nations with Italy stagnant.

Under the coaching of New Zealander Milton Haig, Georgia have won five Rugby Europe Championship Grand Slams in six years and qualified automatically for Japan thanks to a third-place pool finish at the 2015 World Cup.

The Lelos pack is huge, coached by ex-England prop Graham Rowntree and helped by the return from retirement of Toulon’s lock or back-row Mamuka Gorgodze for a fourth World Cup, while the backline is young, adventurous and full of potential.

Georgia are a team that Wales cannot take likely, but should still beat comfortably in a useful workout to set themselves up for the rest of the pool.

Australia (29 Sep, 08:45 BST; Tokyo)

Wales next go into what should be the Pool D top-spot decider, bolstered by last season’s November win over Australia – a 9-6 result that ended a run of 13 straight defeats stretching back to 2008.

Games between the two nations in recent history have generally been tight,

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