Rugby World Cup 2019: Wales' Adam Beard and Cory Hill out of Georgia match

Cory Hill
Cory Hill, posing for photographs with fans in Kitakyushu, has travelled to Japan with Wales' squad despite his injury

Wales boss Warren Gatland admits he is worried about his lock options with Adam Beard and Cory Hill out of their World Cup opener against Georgia - but hopes both will be fit for Australia.

Beard has had his appendix removed, while Hill has not played since February because of an ankle injury and a stress fracture in his leg.

Wales face Georgia on 23 September and play Australia six days later.

"There is a concern at the moment with the second rows," said Gatland.

"He [Beard] is probably not going to be available for selection for the Georgia game, but the medics are confident he'll be available for the Australia game.

"[Hill] is the same. They're confident that he'll be available for selection against Australia.

"He's been out of his boot and on the training field today [Sunday], even though he wasn't doing any running. Hopefully, after that Georgia game, he'll be back training and available for selection."

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Warren Gatland send Gareth Thomas his best wishes

Ospreys lock Beard was taken to hospital in Wales before the squad's departure on Wednesday.

The Welsh Rugby Union said the 23-year-old "had his appendix removed uneventfully" and will link up with the squad in Japan on Thursday.

Hill, meanwhile, continues his recovery from a stress fracture of his leg, having previously injured his ankle while scoring a try in the Six Nations win over England in February.

Without Hill and Beard, Wales' only available specialist second rows against Georgia will be captain Alun Wyn Jones and Jake Ball, with back-rower Aaron Shingler likely to provide lock cover on the bench.

Fly-half Rhys Patchell is also a doubt after he was forced off by a head injury during Wales' World Cup warm-up loss to Ireland in Dublin.

"He's gone through the HIA [head injury assessment] protocols," Gatland said of the Scarlets player.

"He was training this morning, just doing some non-contact stuff at this stage.

"We'll ease him back into contact work later in the week, making sure that we go through the protocols and ensure he's 100% and available for selection."

Children and local media welcome Leigh Halfpenny and the rest of the Wales squad at Kitakyushu Airport
Children and local media welcomed Leigh Halfpenny and the rest of the Wales squad at Kitakyushu Airport on Saturday

'Fantastic' welcome in Japan

After spending a couple of nights in Tokyo, Wales travelled to Kitakyushu on Saturday for a training camp.

The squad were given a rapturous welcome as they arrived at Kitakyushu Airport, while Welsh flags and messages of support have been plastered all over buildings and cars across the city.

"It's absolutely fantastic. They've embraced Wales, the team and the culture, even putting the red dragon on their fire engines," said Gatland.

"In fairness to the Welsh Rugby Union, particularly Ryan Jones and his team, they've been over here on a number of occasions, running coaching sessions to form a relationship with the local community.

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Warren Gatland and Alun Wyn Jones on Wales' welcome to Japan

"We heard last night that there has been a significant uptake in the number of youngsters playing rugby in Kitakyushu and the surrounding districts.

"We see that as being incredibly positive. For the players to see all the flags and posters around town has been quite humbling.

"It's brilliant that they city has got behind us.

"There are so many similarities between Kitakyushu and Wales in terms of the history of the mining industry and the ports.

"There is definitely a relationship there and hopefully we can continue to build on that."

Watch Eddie Butler's Rugby World Cup previe on demand.

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All pictures via Huw Evans Images.

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