Hibbard in fitness battle as World Cup

Wales' Rugby World Cup preparations began in earnest this week with many of the 45-man training squad meeting up at WRU headquarters on Monday, 13 June, for medical assessment and to kick-start their fitness and conditioning programmes.

Scarlets hooker Ken Owens joined the party as training cover for Osprey Richard Hibbard, who has begun his 10 to 12 week lay-off after a shoulder operation, and the rest of the squad are beginning personalised training regimes - although the rest and rehab period is extended for certain players depending on individual need and circumstance.

Blues prop Gethin Jenkins is back in full training after a successful operation on his toe, as is Exeter-bound Ospreys prop Craig Mitchell, who has recovered from the dislocated shoulder he suffered during the RBS 6 Nations Championship earlier this year.

Ospreys wing Shane Williams is targeting the squad’s first trip to a training camp in Spala, Poland, on 2 July, to be back at full tilt after a knee problem and Blues wing Leigh Halfpenny, is also pencilled in to travel to Poland and continues his rehabilitation after a foot operation.

“Shane will be three more weeks before he is fully integrated into the training programme, which means he should be up to speed by the time we go on that first camp in Poland,” said Prav Mathema, Welsh Rugby Union national medical performance manager.

“Leigh is doing well after a successful operation on his foot, he is six weeks down the line now and able to start lifting weights again and also hopes to be at Spala.

“Both Gethin and Craig are back in full training and Richard has been given a return to play time of 10 to 12 weeks, which makes it possible for him to be back to fitness by the end of August.”

The training squad will embark on two separate and bespoke training camps in Spala, Poland, from 2 July to 11 July and from 18 July to 26 July, with players selected for these camps based on their individual training requirements.

Wales face England at Twickenham on Saturday, 6 August (kick-off 2.30pm) in the first of three remaining RWC warm-up matches. A week later they host Martin Johnson’s team at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, 13 August, before taking on Argentina, again at home, on Saturday, 20 August (both kick-offs also 2.30pm).