Wales are hopeful Dan Biggar will be fit to face England in the Six Nations on Saturday and Liam Williams is set to make his first appearance of the tournament.

Biggar suffered a knee injury during Northampton Saints' Premiership defeat to Saracens last weekend.

The fly-half is on course to play at Twickenham, though, as the defending champions attempt to stop the rot after back-to-back defeats at the hands of Ireland and France.

Former Wales captain Sam Warburton, working as a breakdown specialist in Wayne Pivac's set-up, said of Biggar: "He's looking good.

"The initial signs are positive. He doesn't need a scan. It puts our team selection on hold for a while because we have to wait to see how he turns up tomorrow.

"He's going to train and do stuff with the physios. But everyday so far, the feedback from the physios has been good, he's had a really good response to the stages of physio.

"He's ticking all the boxes he needs to. He's on a good course so, hopefully, with no hiccups, we'll have some good news. There are no guarantees but we're confident at this stage.

"There's a hurdle every day, the training becomes gradually more intense and will climax towards the end of the week. So if he can pass that, then all good. We're taking it day by day but the first two days have been all good.

"I don't know to be honest but I think we'll have a conclusive answer by Friday morning."

Williams has not played since suffering an ankle injury at the Rugby World Cup, but the full-back is poised to face the Red Rose.

Warburton said: "He’s back in full training. He will hopefully be in contention to start.

"This is the sort of cauldron he would love to be thrown into. It will be great to have some big game players back."

Wing Hallam Amos will definitely not feature after he was ruled out for the rest of the tournament with a knee injury.

Leigh Halfpenny disabused any notion of solidarity with Willie le Roux when he caught his opposite number in mid-air after half an hour of Sunday's attritional Rugby World Cup semi-final in Yokohama.

Wales and South Africa's fullbacks had an abundance of work to get through in swirling conditions as the opening 40 minutes produced 40 kicks from hand.

After the thundering intensity and brilliance of England's Saturday dethroning of New Zealand, this felt like a different sport at times. Opposition 22s were not usually places to set up camp but visit fleetingly.

This clash of two brutally physical packs meant such an encounter was always on the cards, placing huge onus on a pair of fly-halves whose route to a defining match has been nowhere near as smooth as they would have hoped four years ago.

When South Africa beat Wales 23-19 in the 2015 quarter-final at Twickenham in an eminently more watchable affair, a 21-year-old Handre Pollard landed five penalties and a drop goal.

A career on the line

Already named IRB Junior Player of the Year for 2014, Pollard's cool-headedness and nerveless accuracy had him marked out for greatness. However, a shoulder injury sustained playing club rugby in Japan set off a career-threatening chain of events.

He decided to try to nurse the problem through the 2016 Super Rugby season with the Bulls, but that plan was shelved after he suffered a snapped anterior cruciate ligament during training.

Pragmatically, Pollard elected to have surgery to fix his shoulder while incapacitated, only to contract an infection in hospital.

"It got to the point where the doctors raised the subject of amputating my arm, although it wasn't an immediate option," he told The Guardian. "I spent six weeks in hospital pumped full of antibiotics about seven hours a day."

The treatment worked and an absence from the international stage of almost two years ended against New Zealand in North Shore. Pollard was a replacement in a 57-0 mauling at the hands of the All Blacks, yet he was playing with the perspective that things could have been so much worse.

It helps to know a World Cup semi-final is at once much more than a game of rugby but still only a game of rugby. South Africa anticipated a tight contest and bet on Pollard's goal-kicking. He was perfect in a game where they were never behind.

A career forever questioned

The responsibility of leading the catch-up operation fell to Dan Biggar, who kicked 14 points to Pollard's 18 in that Twickenham meeting.

Acclaim has rarely arrived so easily for Biggar as it does for his counterpart, though. His 11-year international career has been a fight for approval against celebrated compatriots, while measuring up uncomfortably to the aesthetic demands of a Welsh 10.

From competing against James Hook and Rhys Priestland during his early years to recent jousts with Gareth Anscombe, Biggar has been a loyal servant to his country, always striving to belong.

When an injury to Halfpenny four years ago thrust kicking duties upon him, many doubted Biggar's chops for the task. His 23 points sent England on the way to heartbreak at their own party.

Anscombe being ruled out of this competition persuaded Wales great JJ Williams to declare his country could not win a World Cup with Biggar at fly-half.

"I've had it my whole career,” Biggar told WalesOnline. "There could be another ex-player calling for someone from Penclawdd to play number 10 next week! It's one of those things."

There was similar defiance in each swipe of the boot that took Wales from 3-0, 6-3 and 9-3 behind to parity early in the second period.

Glory and despair

Unfortunately for Biggar, the Springboks had decided to target him at the gain line and he missed Damian de Allende as the South Africa skipper burst through for a game-breaking try.

It was his last involvement, as Rhys Patchell came on in his place – the words of Williams and others perhaps unfairly pounding in Biggar's ears.

Josh Adams went over to level matters once again after a monumental Wales effort by the South Africa line, but the glory would be Pollard's.

Wales brought a maul to ground right in front of referee Jerome Garces and, after a frivolous drop goal attempt, Pollard took it back to the tee.

Ice cold as usual, he bisected the posts with a certain inevitability. Of course, his presence on such a stage was anything but inevitable when faced with the consuming darkness of that hospital bed.

Handre Pollard anticipates South Africa's Rugby World Cup semi-final with Wales will be settled by kicking, as he relishes the task of going up against Leigh Halfpenny and Dan Biggar.

Wales were dealt a blow on Thursday when Liam Williams was ruled out of the match due to injury, with Halfpenny coming in at full-back for Sunday's clash in Yokohama.

However, while the Six Nations champions have lost a key player in the form of Williams, Halfpenny is an expert kicker, while Biggar has also been in fine form with the boot.

Springboks' fly half Pollard has not had the same luck, converting 12 of his 19 attempts at goal, and acknowledged his own kicking must improve if Rassie Erasmus' side – who will be without influential wing Cheslin Kolbe – are to make it into the final.

"[Halfpenny] is a world-class goal-kicker, we all know that," Pollard said in a news conference.

"We all know it's going to probably come down to a kick or a drop goal. It's semi-final rugby, so you must try your best to be on target with every kick. If it's not to be, it's not to be."

South Africa defeated Wales in the 2015 quarter-finals, with Biggar a standout performer at Twickenham.

"We went at it four years ago, and I thought [Biggar] had a brilliant game that day. We really had to play well to win that match," Pollard added.

"He is a world-class player, unbelievably good. He is really not scared of the physical part of the match, and that's something that excites both of us. It's going to be fun to go against him for 80 minutes.

"[Wales] know what they are good at and focus on that. They are relentless in those areas. They starve you of possession and territory and enforce their kicking game on you. They take away your set-piece.

"It's not a gameplan or rugby with a lot of flair in it, but it's suffocating. If you fall into that trap, they will enforce their gameplan on you for 80 minutes and you will probably not win.

"It's going to be two sides tactically trying to figure each other out. We have a couple of plans up our sleeves."

Dan Biggar is confident he is 100 per cent ready to return to action in Wales' Rugby World Cup quarter-final clash with France, according to Warren Gatland.

Biggar missed Wales' final Pool D match against Uruguay with concussion after suffering head knocks in consecutive matches against Australia and Fiji.

However, the Northampton Saints fly-half has been passed fit to start against France in Oita on Sunday.

It is a decision Gatland insisted has not taken lightly, but the Wales coach affirmed Biggar has no doubts over his fitness.

"We went through, made sure in terms of consulting the right people and making sure that they were aware of everything, getting him scanned, the independent consultant - that was important," said Gatland in a news conference.

"Dan's been fit for three or four days in terms of having passed those [concussion protocols], so we are taking all the proper precautions.

"But he's very confident that he's 100 per cent."

Gatland did, however, concede extra caution will have to be taken with Biggar should he sustain another head injury.

"He's desperate to play," Gatland added.

"We've just got to make sure if it does happen, if he gets a knock in the next few games, the next couple of months, obviously there would probably be a different course of action."

Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones has also been selected and will join Brian O'Driscoll in third on the all-time list for international Test appearances with his 141st cap.

"It's one chance to stay or you know where you are going," he said of Wales' ambitions for Sunday's clash.

"It's funny because the planning for this has probably been in Warren's head for the last 10 years rather than the last four years, two years, or 18 months.

"He is constantly building and what we have achieved or have not comes down to this moment."

Dan Biggar, Jonathan Davies and George North have all overcome fitness concerns to take their place in Wales' team for the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against France on Sunday.

Warren Gatland has been able to name the same team that defeated Australia in the pool stage with three of his key backs returning.

Fly-half Biggar missed the Uruguay game having taken a blow to the head when colliding with team-mate Liam Williams in the win over Fiji.

Centre Davies and winger North had been battling knee and ankle injuries respectively.

However, all three will start in Oita as Gatland's side seek to avenge their 2011 World Cup semi-final loss to Les Bleus.

Wales have won seven of their past eight fixtures against France since that last-four loss at Eden Park eight years ago.

Captain Alun Wyn Jones will move joint-third - level with Brian O'Driscoll - in the all-time international appearances list when he features in his 141st Test - nine of which have come with the British and Irish Lions.

 

Wales team: Liam Williams, George North, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tom Francis, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones, Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rhys Carre, Dillon Lewis, Adam Beard, Ross Moriarty, Tomos Williams, Rhys Patchell, Owen Watkin.

Wales took a huge step towards topping Pool D at the Rugby World Cup with a nail-biting 29-25 win over a fast-finishing over Australia in Tokyo.

First-half tries from Hadleigh Parks and the outstanding Gareth Davies made the Wallabies pay for a slow start and set up a result which should see Wales avoid a quarter-final date with England.

Warren Gatland's men did have their 15-point half-time lead trimmed to one during the second period but held firm with help from Rhys Patchell's vital third three-pointer.

The Scarlets fly-half only came on after Dan Biggar was forced off due to concussion, the lone setback for Wales on Alun Wyn Jones' 130th cap, a national record.

Wales made a fast start in their tournament-opening win over Georgia and did the same on Sunday as a Biggar drop goal punished Australia's turnover from the kick-off.

Fly-half Biggar was involved again for the first try of the match when Parkes rose high to claim an intelligent kick and extend the margin to 10 points in almost as many minutes.

Australia's nerves eventually started to settle and the recalled Adam Ashley-Cooper got his team on the board by meeting Bernard Foley's cross-field kick.

Foley missed the conversion but made amends with a three-pointer prior to the half-hour mark.

The influential Biggar failed a head injury assessment following a try-saving tackle on Samu Kerevi, yet his absence did nothing to hinder Wales.

His replacement, Patchell, nailed a pair of penalties and extended the lead to 23-8 at half-time after Davies made a second interception, this time from Will Genia, and raced clean through, albeit from a seemingly offside position.

Patchell's successful drop goal in the early stages of the second half prompted Michael Cheika to swap Foley for Matt Toomua and it was the latter's break that ended with Dane Haylett-Petty diving over on the right.

Australia grabbed the momentum and reduced the deficit to four points 20 minutes from the end, Michael Hooper squirming over following a sustained period of pressure.

Toomua made both conversions and then put the Wallabies within one point with a successful penalty, but Patchell responded to give a tiring Wales breathing space in the closing moments.


Wales shed Wallabies hoodoo

Gatland's men beat the Wallabies 9-6 in Cardiff in November 2018 but had lost the past five World Cup meetings between the nations.

Ending that run and avenging the 15-6 pool match defeat to Australia four years ago could provide the impetus for a run deep into the tournament.


Cheika's big call backfires

Australia coach Cheika turned to experience to combat Wales, making four changes to the backline that helped secure a 39-21 win over Fiji.

He might be regretting that decision. Foley and Genia were drafted into the halves and, for experienced players accustomed to this stage, were prone to basic errors that invited pressure.


What's next?

The Wallabies have work to do ahead of Saturday's game against a Uruguay side boosted by a surprise win over Fiji, who are Wales' next opponents on October 9.

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