Rugby World Cup: Wales' Aaron Wainwright set to start against Georgia

Aaron Wainwright packs down for Wales
Aaron Wainwright made his Wales debut against Argentina in June 2018
Rugby World Cup: Wales v Georgia
Venue: City of Toyota Stadium, Toyota City Date: Mon, 23 September Kick-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.

World Cup novice Aaron Wainwright looks set to start in Wales' opening match of the 2019 tournament in Japan against Georgia on Monday.

The back row, 21, has started in only five of his 12 appearances for Wales.

But after impressing during World Cup warm-up matches, Wainwright appears to have fought off fierce competition to start the game in Toyota.

"If I can get a starting place in the team, that would be massive for me," the Dragons forward said.

"There are six of us [back-row players] here so competition is very high."

Head coach Warren Gatland will name Wales' team to face Georgia on Saturday at 04:00 BST.

The back row is arguably the area of the team where Wales have the greatest strength in depth.

Joining Wainwright in Japan are Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty, Aaron Shingler and James Davies.

And there would have been even more difficult selection headaches had injuries not ruled out Lions forward Taulupe Faletau and Ellis Jenkins.

It remains to be seen whose place in the side Wainwright takes but, during Monday's open training session in Kitakyushu, he was lining up alongside Navidi and Tipuric in what looked like a probable starting team.

If those three were to form the back row against Georgia, Navidi would be expected to play as number eight, with Tipuric as the open-side flanker and Wainwright on the blindside.

Wales World Cup fixtures - Pool D
Mon, 23 Sept: Wales v Georgia, City of Toyota Stadium, Toyota City (11:15 BST)
Sun, 29 Sept: Wales v Australia, Toyota Stadium, Tokyo (08:45 BST)
Wed, 9 Oct: Wales v Fiji, Oita Stadium, Oita (10:45 BST)
Sun, 13 Oct: Wales v Uruguay, Kumamoto Prefectural Athletic Stadium, Kumamoto City (09:15 BST)

The youngster has played across the back row during his brief career and his versatility was one of the attributes that helped secure his place in Wales' 31-man World Cup squad.

Playing in the opening fixture against Georgia in Toyota would cap a remarkable rise for Wainwright, who only started playing rugby seriously during his late teens having previously shown promise as a footballer in Cardiff City's youth ranks.

"As things intensify at the moment, I don't really have a chance to think about that," he said of his whirlwind first year in a Wales shirt since making his debut in 2018.

"Everything's focused on that first game against Georgia and progressing on from there. It will be a tough pool.

"For me, since I started playing rugby, the biggest goal I would've aimed for would be to get selected for the World Cup.

"To be here and experience the welcome we've had, with everything that's gone on, it's been massive."

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

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All pictures via Huw Evans Images.

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