Wales will look for a points avalanche against Uruguay in their World Cup opener on Sunday in full knowledge the group will likely be decided on points difference.
While most would welcome the supposedly softer run into the tournament, Wales coach Warren Gatland feared that playing Uruguay first puts Wales at a massive disadvantage in comparison to Pool A rivals England, Australia and Fiji.
“We have to win the game and after that it’s about scoring points,” Gatland said.
“It’s not disrespecting Uruguay at all. Hopefully we’ll play well and the first priority is to win.”
Skipper Sam Warburton added: “It’s quite a tricky situation. The main thing is you want to get a win and if you’re in a bonus point situation (for scoring at least four tries) great and after that we’ll be foot down for 80 minutes.”
“In no game will we ease up as you don’t want to look back in four weeks and wish you’d pushed a bit harder.”
Gatland – whose mood has not been helped by losing key kicker Leigh Halfpenny and scrum-half Rhys Webb to injury in the final warm-up Test against Italy – said of the South Americans: “I wouldn’t mind having them last.
“Again it’s not something we’re complaining about. It’s been drawn and we’ve been dealt that card.”
Gatland was also in charge four years ago in New Zealand, when Wales reached the semi-final, only losing 9-8 to France despite losing Warburton to a red card in the 20th-minute.
“There’s no difference in the amount of confidence we have as a group and players,” the Kiwi coach said.
“They’ve worked incredibly hard and the focus is very much on Uruguay but we’ve been preparing for the first two games.”
With the second game against England at Twickenham next Saturday in mind, Gatland will rest key forwards Alun Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau and Gethin Jenkins, and a crucial trio of backs in Dan Biggar, Jamie Roberts and George North from the Uruguay game.
Asked whether selection for England was wide open, Gatland was adamant: “Not really, no.”
Uruguay head coach Pablo Lemoine does not share Gatland’s access to strength in depth. Not one of the 23-man match-day squad named has World Cup experience.
The side will be captained by lock Santiago Vilaseca, while the most experienced player is hooker Carlos Arboleya, who will be making his 51st test appearance.
It could be the start of a long month for Uruguay, who go on to play two-time champions Australia in Villa Park on September 27, Fiji in Milton Keynes on October 6 and hosts England, in Manchester just four days later.
Liam Williams; Alex Cuthbert, Cory Allen, Scott Williams, Hallam Amos; Rhys Priestland, Gareth Davies; James King, Justin Tipuric, Sam Warburton (capt); Jake Ball, Luke Charteris; Samson Lee, Scott Baldwin, Paul James
Replacements: Ken Owens, Aaron Jarvis, Tomas Francis, Dominic Day, Dan Lydiate, Ross Moriarty, Lloyd Williams, Matthew Morgan
Gaston Meres; Santiago Gibernau, Joaquin Prada, Andres Vilaseca, Rodrigo Silva; Felipe Berchesi, Agustin Ormaechea; Alejandro Nieto, Matias Beer, Juan Manuel Gaminara; Jorge Zerbino, Santiago Vilaseca (capt); Mario Sagario, Carlos Arboleya, Alejo Corral
Replacements: German Kessler, Oscar Duran, Mateo Sanguinetti, Franco Lamanna, Agustin Alonso, Juan De Freitas, Alejo Duran, Francisco Bulanti.