Justin Tipuric focused on realising Rugby World Cup dream
Ospreys flanker admits competition is tough to make Warren Gatland's 31-man squad at next month's showpiece tournament
Justin Tipuric believes making the Wales squad for the Rugby World Cup next month will not be easy given the competition for places.
The Ospreys flanker will be vice-captain when a new-look Wales team take on Ireland in front of a capacity crowd at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday with head coach Warren Gatland resting a number of star players, including captain Sam Warburton.
For me, the first goal is to get into the World Cup squad, which is something I haven’t experienced before. It’s something I want to be able to say that I’ve done, but it’s not going to be easy given the quality of back rowers we have here.
His 32nd senior international cap will be a rare opening gig at openside for the Neath man, who turns 26 on Thursday, as Gatland runs the rule over a number of fringe players, including four debutants.
So often Warburton’s understudy, Tipuric has the perfect chance to stake a claim for inclusion in the final 31-man squad against the reigning RBS 6 Nations champions, who also have plenty of talent in the back row.
And he admits his focus is firmly on surviving Gatland’s initial cut of 10 players next week and making the final squad that will be announced later this month.
“Playing at the World Cup is something that every rugby player dreams,” Tipuric told the Welsh Rugby Union website.
“You want to be involved, experience it and see what it’s all about.
“Sometimes it doesn’t happen, perhaps because of injuries or selections, but it’s obviously what every player wants.
“For me, the first goal is to get into the World Cup squad, which is something I haven’t experienced before.
“It’s something I want to be able to say that I’ve done, but it’s not going to be easy given the quality of back rowers we have here.
“All I’m thinking about at the minute is getting into the squad, although I’d definitely relish being in the side on Saturday.
“It looks like it’s going to be a sell-out, so it would be great to go up against an Ireland team in front of a big crowd.
“No matter what mix of players Ireland put out, you know it is going to be a good team, and playing in front of the Millennium Stadium crowd is always going to be something to enjoy.”
A graduate of Wales’ age-grade sides and a former Wales Sevens international, Tipuric has enjoyed success at domestic and international level, as well as coming off the bench for his debut as the British and Irish Lions defeated Australia in the final Test in Sydney to record a 2-1 series win in June 2013.
The training has been harder than it was in 2011. I’m not going to lie, it’s been tough – without doubt the toughest training I’ve ever experienced.
He concedes it was difficult to sit on the sidelines watching the Rugby World Cup from home after failing to make the final squad last time around, but he admits he has learned from that disappointment.
Four years on and with substantially more experience, Tipuric should realise his dream of making the final squad if he can remain free from injury after the home and away fixtures against Ireland this month.
After Gatland and his coaching taskmasters again pushed the players to their limits with gruelling training camps at altitude in Switzerland and searing heat in Qatar, it would be the cruellest blow to have come so far and to miss out.
“I did all the training camps in 2011, but didn’t make the final cut,” he added
“I had just come through my first season and to make the training camp was something I didn’t think would happen, so to be included was something special.
“But when you are in the training squad you want to be part of the World Cup proper and it was a bit disappointing to miss out in the end.
“Doing all the training over the past few weeks brought back just how hard it all was.
“Watching a World Cup back home isn’t great, but the whole experience is something I’ve learned from.
“I was still quite young and players like Martyn Williams, Andy Powell and Ryan Jones were still there.
“The training has been harder than it was in 2011. I’m not going to lie, it’s been tough – without doubt the toughest training I’ve ever experienced.
“But that’s what you expect when you are preparing to go to a World Cup. You don’t expect it to be easy.”