Ryan Giggs is hopeful of starting Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey in Wales' crucial Euro 2020 qualifier with Hungary after using both players in the win over Azerbaijan.

Bale made his first appearance in a month on Saturday as Wales eased to a 2-0 victory in Baku that ensures their bid to qualify automatically for next year's tournament will go down to the final game.

The Real Madrid forward has been carrying a calf injury and lasted an hour before being replaced by Juventus midfielder Ramsey, who has also struggled for playing time of late due to a thigh problem.

Giggs has yet to have both players on the pitch during qualifying but is optimistic of that changing against Hungary in Cardiff on Tuesday,

"We've still got to assess them," he said at his post-match news conference. "Getting Gareth off pretty early on and giving Aaron some minutes helped.

"Aaron showed his quality when he came on, but it's a quick turnaround. Gareth was blowing a little bit, which is understandable, but hopefully I'll have the option of starting both on Tuesday."

Wales are now unbeaten in four Group E games since back-to-back away losses in June and are within a point of second-place Hungary, while Slovakia are a point behind ahead of their game in hand against Croatia later on Saturday.

Victory for Wales against Hungary, coupled with Slovakia failing to take maximum points from their remaining two matches, would be enough for Giggs' men to secure automatic qualification for Euro 2020.

"We've had four good performances in a row, which we needed after the two difficult games in the summer," Giggs said. "We needed to be strong and we have been. 

"I was not happy with the number of corners we gave away, but they never really troubled us in open play and we could have scored a few more goals.

"Depending on the Croatia-Slovakia score, it sets us up nicely for Tuesday's game."

Kieffer Moore doubled his goals tally in a Wales shirt with a 10th-minute opener at Bakcell Arena, while Harry Wilson was also on target in the first half of a comfortable away victory.

It was Wales' first away win since October 2018 and Giggs added: "Some of our play was outstanding.

"Since the Azerbaijan game at home we've improved. We've played some difficult teams but overall the performances have improved. 

"We started to gain some sort of momentum, which isn't easy in international football. The lads came into camp really confident. It doesn't matter who's come in, they've all contributed. 

"It's not an easy place to come, so it's up there with one of our best performances."

Wales eased to a 2-0 win over Group E's bottom side Azerbaijan in Baku on Saturday to ensure their Euro 2020 qualification bid will go down to the wire.

Kieffer Moore scored for the second away game running to get Ryan Giggs' side off the mark inside 10 minutes and Harry Wilson - on target in Wales' last away win 11 months ago - added a second before half-time.

Despite creating chances there were no further goals for the visitors, who are already guaranteed the cushion of at least a play-off place, regardless of where they finish in their qualifying group.

Wales are now unbeaten in five games since back-to-back away losses in June and are within a point of second-place Hungary, who they face in their final qualifier on Tuesday, while Slovakia are a point behind and have a game in hand to play.

Azerbaijan have just one point from their seven group matches and were behind early on through Moore's back-post header, the Wales striker leaping highest to meet Wilson's whipped corner.

Emil Balayev produced a good save to deny Moore a second goal but there was no keeping out Wilson, who headed home the rebound after Daniel James' curled shot from distance struck the crossbar and then the post.

Wales thought they had a third goal five minutes into the second half when Tom Lockyer headed in from close range, only for the referee to rule it out for Ethan Ampadu's shove on Balayev.

Wilson was next to be denied by Balayev with an angled drive just before the hour mark, while Moore was wayward with a couple of efforts as Wales were made to settle for just the two goals.

What does it mean? Wales remain on course

This first away win in over a year for Wales lifts them a point above Slovakia, who face Group E leaders Croatia in their game in hand later on Saturday, and a point behind next opponents Hungary.

Giggs' men require a victory against Hungary in Cardiff on Tuesday to automatically qualify for Euro 2020, though maximum points for Slovakia from their two remaining matches would render that result immaterial.

Moore making big impact

Wigan Athletic striker Moore only earned his first cap for Wales in September but has played a huge part in their recent revival.

He scored his maiden international goal in the 1-1 away draw with Slovakia last month and doubled his personal tally with his early header here to settle any lingering Welsh nerves.

Bale on the periphery

Bale has not played for club or country in a month and that showed as he completed just 11 passes before being replaced by Aaron Ramsey - himself not fully fit - with an hour played.

What's next?

Wales welcome second-place Hungary to the Cardiff City Stadium in a crucial clash on Tuesday, while Azerbaijan conclude their campaign with a trip to Slovakia the same day.

Former Wales captain Sam Warburton has been added to his national side's coaching team by new head coach Wayne Pivac.

Warburton, who announced his injury-enforced retirement at the age of 29 last July, will serve as a technical advisor for the breakdown and defence on a campaign-to-campaign basis.

His appointment was confirmed on Friday, along with that of Byron Hayward, who will return to the WRU as defence coach.

"I'm delighted to be part of the senior national coaching team," said Warburton, who also skippered the British and Irish Lions during his illustrious playing career, in a WRU statement.

"It is a genuine privilege to be considered for such a role and I can't wait to do my upmost [sic] to contribute to help improve the team and players. With such a great group of players and management it is an amazing opportunity which I am very proud to be given."

Pivac has succeeded Warren Gatland following the New Zealander's 12-year stint as head coach and now has five former Wales internationals in his backroom team, with Warburton and Hayward joining Stephen Jones, Jonathan Humphreys and Neil Jenkins.

"I'm delighted to bring both Byron and Sam into the set-up and add to what is already a vastly experienced coaching team," said Pivac.

"Sam is one of the most experienced leaders in rugby with excellent knowledge and communication skills and having only recently retired he has a full grasp on the international game.

"We looked at the coaching structure and the roles of each coach and believed adding a second defensive role into the team adds value, adds a point of difference and allows a specialist to work in the contact area. I believe Byron and Sam will complement each other in the roles."

Wales' first game under Pivac is on November 30, when they will take on a Barbarians side coached by Gatland in Cardiff.

Gareth Bale has further risked the wrath of Real Madrid's notoriously vociferous support by acknowledging he gets more excitement playing for Wales than Los Blancos.

Bale, 30, joined Madrid for a then world-record fee reported to be worth €100million in 2013 and enjoyed significant success at the club, winning every competition, including four Champions League titles.

In the most recent of those Champions League successes in 2017-18, Bale scored a vital brace as Madrid beat Liverpool 3-1, but despite his haul of trophies at the club, fans never truly took to the winger, who has also had issues with coach Zinedine Zidane.

He has received particular criticism for his inability to speak Spanish and a perceived commitment to golf ahead of Madrid, with the Spanish media often focusing on the latter.

And Bale can expect further scorn from Madrid fans and the media after freely admitting on international duty that he unequivocally prefers playing for his country, who he is away with despite not playing at club level since suffering an injury in Wales' last get together.

"I definitely have more excitement playing for Wales," Bale told reporters on Friday ahead of facing Azerbaijan.

"I've been with most of the older players since we were in the Under-17s. It's like playing with your mates down the park on a Sunday. It's normal.

"With Wales, I'm speaking my own language and feel more comfortable. But it doesn't change what I do on the pitch.

"I always give 100 per cent on the pitch wherever I am, that's what I always strive to do."

Despite the vilification he is often forced to put up with in Spain, Bale insists he takes it all in good humour because he believes many of those criticising have no idea what they are talking about.

"I find it hilarious to be honest, especially some of the pictures and stuff my friends send me," Bale said.

"On one it said triple bogey, and I have never had a triple bogey! At least give me an albatross! It's funny.

"Some of the things I have seen… people don't understand and don't know what they're on about. So, I just find it quite funny."

Bale accepts that it might look curious from Madrid's perspective that he is fit to feature for Wales again after a month out of action domestically, but he insists it is a coincedence.

"I've done my rehab, four weeks training," he said. "Obviously there are two big games and I'm not sure if I'll play the two whole 90 minutes, but I'll do my best to play as much as I can. I fully understand the position I'm in.

"I've done as much as I can in terms of trying to get back as quickly as I can. We've done 11v11 to try and get some match fitness in me.

"If there had been a Real Madrid game this week, I would've been fit and training to play. Maybe to them it doesn't look great, but it's just a coincidence that the national team comes around this week.

"Everyone knows how passionate I am about Wales. We always look to not just qualify for one, we want to qualify for multiple tournaments.

"It's important not just for the here and now, but for the future of Welsh football. It will inspire kids again and hopefully make more kids play football and make our national team better for the future."

Wales will be without centre Jonathan Davies for the 2020 Six Nations after he was ruled out for at least six months due to impending knee surgery.

Davies, 31, sustained the injury during a pool game against Fiji at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

He missed the quarter-final against France but returned for the semi-final against eventual winners South Africa, while he also played in the bronze medal match against New Zealand.

The timetable for Davies' recovery means the Six Nations, which begins for Wales with a home fixture against Italy on February 1 and runs until March 14, will come too soon for him in his recovery.

 

Also set for a spell on the sidelines following Wales' return from the tournament in Japan is fly-half Rhys Patchell. Davies' Scarlets team-mate will miss between 12 and 16 weeks due to shoulder surgery.

Wales are defending Six Nations champions having achieved the Grand Slam in the 2019 tournament.

They will be under the leadership of Wayne Pivac following the departure of Warren Gatland, who spent 12 years at the helm.

Jonathan Davies' knee injury sustained at the Rugby World Cup will rule him out of Wales' 2020 Six Nations campaign. 

Eddie Jones will coach a Barbarians side including four of South Africa's Rugby World Cup winners against Fiji just two weeks after they beat his England side in the Rugby World Cup final.

Makazole Mapimpi, Tendai Mtawarira and Lukhanyo Am were in the Springboks starting line-up for their 32-12 victory over the Red Rose at International Stadium Yokohama on Saturday.

The trio are set to play under Jones at Twickenham on November 16 along with Herschel Jantjies, who was among the replacements as South Africa claimed the Webb Ellis Cup for a record-equalling third time.

Mapimpi scored his sixth try of the tournament in the final and fell just one short of Wales wing Josh Adams' tournament-leading tally in Japan.

Retiring Ireland captain Rory Best and France centre Mathieu Bastareaud have also been named in the Baa-baas squad for the Killik Cup clash with the Pacific Islanders along

The Barbarians will also face Brazil in Sao Paolo on November 20 and Wales at the Principality Stadium 10 days later.

Gareth Bale has been included in the Wales squad for their final two Euro 2020 qualifiers despite still being out of action for Real Madrid.

The 30-year-old winger continues to train alone in the Spanish capital but Ryan Giggs is preparing to gamble on his fitness for this month's make-or-break games against Azerbaijan and Hungary.

Bale has not played a minute for Madrid since limping through the final stages of Wales' 1-1 draw against Croatia on October 13.

Giggs said the suspected calf problem appeared to be cramp but Madrid have not confirmed the exact nature of the issue.

Wales are likely to need a maximum six points to have any chance of pipping Hungary, their opponents in Cardiff on November 19, to the second qualifying spot in Group E.

Up first is a trip to Baku to face bottom-placed Azerbaijan on November 16.

Aaron Ramsey could make his first appearance of the qualification campaign in that match after recently overcoming a thigh injury.

The midfielder appeared off the bench in a 1-0 win for Juventus over Torino on Saturday.

 

Wales squad in full:

Adam Davies, Wayne Hennessy, Danny Ward; Ben Davies, Chris Gunter, Tom Lockyer, Chris Mepham, James Lawrence, Regan Poole, Connor Roberts, Neil Taylor, Ashley Williams; Joe Allen, Ethan Ampadu, Dylan Levitt, Joe Morrell, Aaron Ramsey, Matthew Smith, Will Vaulks; Gareth Bale, Daniel James, Tom Lawrence, Rabbi Matondo, Kieffer Moore, Tyler Roberts, Sam Vokes, Harry Wilson.

 

South Africa were crowned champions of the world with the best player on the planet this weekend but not even Pieter-Steph du Toit could make the Opta team of the Rugby World Cup.

The Springboks overpowered England at International Stadium Yokohama on Saturday and lifted the Webb Ellis Cup for a third time after a commanding 32-12 victory.

Outstanding lock Du Toit was crowned World Rugby Player of the Year the following day and Rassie Erasmus was named the top coach in the world at a ceremony in Tokyo.

Yet there were no Springboks in the Opta team of the tournament, with Japan's South Africa-born back-row Pieter Labuschagne in at number seven ahead of Du Toit.

There were four New Zealand players and as many from the host nation Japan in the Opta XV.

Players had to have been on the field for at least 320 minutes, or 240 for props, to be eligible for selection, with tries, carries, metres carried, offloads, turnovers assists and tackle success contributing to earn points.

New Zealand playmaker Beauden Barrett, twice named the best player in the world, claimed the most points in the competition.

 

Opta's Rugby World Cup team of the tournament: Beauden Barrett (New Zealand), Kotaro Matsushima (Japan), Manu Tuilagi (England), Anton Lienert-Brown (New Zealand), Semi Radradra (Fiji), Richie Mo'unga (New Zealand), Gareth Davies (Wales); Joe Moody (New Zealand), Shota Horie (Japan), Kyle Sinckler (England), Maro Itoje (England), Kane Le'aupepe (Samoa), Chris Vui (Samoa), Pieter Labuschagne (Japan), Kazuki Himeno (Japan).

As South Africa celebrate a record-equalling third Rugby World Cup triumph, the newly-crowned champions are among a host of top international sides heading into a new era.

Rassie Erasmus worked wonders in a short space of time to transform the Springboks from failures into the best side in the world after taking over as head coach last March.

He has now relinquished the role to concentrate solely on his position as director of rugby, having juggled both jobs, and he will be a tough act to follow.

Steve Hansen's glorious New Zealand reign also came to an end in Japan, while Warren Gatland's long Wales tenure is over and Ireland will start life without Joe Schmidt following their quarter-final exit.

Australia are in the market for a new head coach too, and France have moved on from the man who led them in Japan. We take a look at their situations.

 

SOUTH AFRICA

Erasmus only agreed to fill in as head coach when Allister Coetzee's turbulent spell in charge came to an end, but he has ruled out staying on.

The 46-year-old became the first man to oversee a Rugby Championship and World Cup triumph in the same year, but will now focus on a job with a wide-ranging remit.

South Africa are reportedly expected to promote from within to replace Erasmus, with defence coach Jacques Nienaber the leading contender.

Mzwandile Stick and Matt Proudfoot are also members of the current coaching step up who could be in the running.

 

NEW ZEALAND

The All Blacks are likely to opt for continuity as they consider who should be charged with the task of succeeding Hansen.

New Zealand were unable to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for an unprecedented third time in a row, but Hansen has left a lasting legacy.

The 60-year-old spent 15 years on the coaching staff and was a huge success in the top job after earning a promotion.

Hansen championed his assistant, Ian Foster, to replace him. Crusaders coach Scott Robertson and Glasgow Warriors chief Dave Rennie are other possibilities.

 

AUSTRALIA

The under-pressure Michael Cheika quit as Wallabies coach after an emphatic quarter-final defeat to England.

Cheika's position had long since been called into question and the new man will take over a side sixth in the rankings and in need of a shake-up.

England head coach Eddie Jones has been linked with a second spell in charge of his country, but said before a defeat to the Springboks in the final that he has not been in contact with Rugby Australia.

Cheika said an Australian should replace him and Stephen Larkham could be in the reckoning, though Rennie may get the nod if they look overseas.

 

WALES

Wayne Pivac was confirmed as Gatland's successor last year - a reward for his success with the Scarlets.

The former policeman will have big shoes to fill, with Gatland having turned Wales into a consistent force and winning the Grand Slam in his final Six Nations.

Gatland parted by stating it would break his heart if Wales returned to the doldrums, as if his compatriot Pivac was not already aware of the standards he would be expected to maintain.

 

IRELAND

Andy Farrell gets his chance to be Ireland's main man after Schmidt decided it was time to take a break.

The experienced Englishman has made a big impact as defence coach and Irish Rugby Football Union chiefs are confident he can be a success.

One of Farrell's first jobs will be to appoint a new captain after Rory Best's retirement and he will take over a strong squad, one smarting from a World Cup quarter-final exit.

 

FRANCE

France are in need of some stability with a World Cup to come on home soil in four years' time and they will be hoping Fabien Galthie is the man to provide it.

Galthie takes over from Jacques Brunel after Les Bleus were knocked out by Wales at the quarter-final stage in Japan.

Former France captain Galthie is contracted until 2023 and could be assisted by Shaun Edwards, who has played such a big part in Wales' success under Gatland.

South Africa were crowned champions at the end of an enthralling Rugby World Cup on Saturday.

The tournament in Japan proved a huge success, with packed-out venues and fervent support from a nation that has embraced the sport.

For their part, the hosts produced one of the great upsets by beating number-one ranked Ireland in the pool phase.

But it was the Springboks, having ended Japan's run at the quarter-final stage, who lifted the trophy after thrashing England 32-12 in Yokohama.

Here, we take a look back at the top Opta facts from six memorable weeks.

- South Africa are the only side to boast a 100 per cent win rate in Rugby World Cup finals, winning on each of their three such appearances.

- The Springboks scored two tries in the final against England, the first time they had ever crossed for a try in a Rugby World Cup final. They are still yet to concede one in the showpiece event.

- Japan reached the quarter-finals of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, becoming the first Asian nation to progress to the knockout stages of the tournament. 

- Ireland suffered a seventh Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat. They have never made it past the last eight; no side has endured as many losses at that stage of the tournament.

- New Zealand have been knocked out before the Rugby World Cup final on five occasions, however only once before has the side who eliminated the All Blacks before the final gone on to lift the Webb Ellis Cup (Australia in 1991). 

- The All Blacks had won 18 games in a row at the Rugby World Cup before their semi-final defeat to England, the longest winning run in the history of the tournament.

- Scotland became the first side to 'nil' their opponents in back-to-back Rugby World Cup games, keeping both Samoa and Russia scoreless in consecutive matches. 

- There were eight red cards shown at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, at least twice as many as any other edition of the tournament (four in 1995 and 1999).

- Jake Polledri beat 27 defenders in the pool stage for Italy, the most ever recorded by a forward in an entire edition of the Rugby World Cup (Buck Shelford 22 for New Zealand in 1987), despite playing just 196 minutes. 

- Against Canada, South Africa's Cobus Reinach scored the earliest hat-trick ever in a Rugby World Cup match, crossing for his third try in the 21st minute.

Rugby World Cup finalists South Africa and England are represented in nominations for World Rugby's Player of the Year award.

With the shortlists for the Coach of the Year and Team of the Year awards having been announced on Thursday, World Rugby revealed the six nominees for the individual men's award on Friday.

South Africa's Pieter-Steph du Toit and Cheslin Kolbe – who has overcome an injury to feature in Rassie Erasmus' line-up for Saturday's final – are the two Springboks up for the accolade.

Tom Curry is England's sole representative, with the 21-year-old having started in 13 of 14 Tests for Eddie Jones' side this year.

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones – his country's most-capped player – is also included, as is New Zealand star Ardie Savea.

The final spot is taken by Joe Taufete'e of the United States, who became the most prolific try scorer in front-row history when he went over for a hat-trick against Uruguay.

Ireland's Johnny Sexton won the 2018 award, having ended Beauden Barrett's two-year spell as the world's best player.

Like the Coach and Team of the Year awards, the winner of the Player of the Year accolade will be confirmed on Sunday in Tokyo.

Steve Hansen lauded the leadership of Kieran Read after New Zealand sent their outgoing coach and captain on their way with a 40-17 demolition of Wales in the Rugby World Cup bronze match.

The All Blacks showed little mercy as they responded to their semi-final defeat to England in style on Friday, dispatching Warren Gatland's Six Nations champions with ease to claim third place.

Ben Smith – also playing in his final Test – starred with two tries as the deposed world champions cruised in Tokyo.

Read, as he has throughout his glorious spell as captaincy, led the charge and Hansen, who has won 93 of his 107 Tests as All Blacks coach, singled out the 34-year-old as being the key factor in New Zealand's impressive response.

"Reado led really, really well this week. He's a great leader but I think this week, he needs to take a bow because he was hurting probably more than most," Hansen told a news conference.

"We saw that earlier in the week, but he put his own personal feelings to the side and knew this team had to get up.

"You sit there and see the performance they put in and you can be nothing but proud of it and I'm sure there are lots of New Zealanders and All Blacks fans all over the world that will be proud of what they did today."

Read insisted he was always going to savour his final appearance in the famous black jersey, even though New Zealand's failure to win an unprecedented third successive World Cup means the end to his international career is a bittersweet one.

"It's been a great day. I've tried to really make sure I stay in the moment and enjoy this day," said Read, who will continue his career in Japan with Toyota Verblitz.

"My emotions at the start of the week, I was able to get them all out of there, so today was about the process, trying to play well and soak it up and enjoy the occasion.

"I just love playing with this team and for my family to come out there at the end and share this special moment, it was great and I'll hold these memories for a long time.

"I look back at this World Cup and it'll take me a little bit of time to get over, but in the end I'll come back with some fond memories and remember today."

Warren Gatland said it would break his heart if Wales go "back into the doldrums" after his long reign ended with a 40-17 defeat to New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup bronze final.

Gatland will return to his native New Zealand to take charge of the Chiefs after spending 12 years as head coach of the Six Nations Grand Slam champions.

But it was the All Blacks who gave their own outgoing head coach, Steve Hansen, a victory in his final match at the helm in the third-place play-off at Tokyo Stadium on Friday.

Gatland departs as Wales' greatest coach, and the British and Irish Lions boss is desperate for his replacement Wayne Pivac to be successful in a new era.

Asked about his emotions during his Wales swansong, Gatland said: "It's something I'd prepared myself for and then you start thinking about the next challenges in life.

"I really hope, for what we have achieved in the last 10 or 12 years, we have earned respect and put some respect back into Wales as an international team and the new coaches come in and continue to build on that.

"Because I think, [with] what we've achieved, it would break my heart if Wales went back into the doldrums."

He added: "There is an opportunity for the new group to come in and build on what we've created and improve on that.

"You know how tough it is to win a Six Nations. It's not to be greedy and expect to win it every year, but it's going and performing well in the Six Nations and continuing to get a few Six Nations titles along the way and make sure we are as competitive as we can be against the other top nations.

"I think we have been, and I want Wales to continue to build on that."

Gatland felt the challenge of facing the All Blacks just five days after a semi-final loss to South Africa was a lot to ask for his injury-hit squad.

"It was obvious to me, just watching the first half, that five-day turnaround after having played South Africa - and losing four players in that game - some players definitely struggled with the quick turnaround." said the 56-year-old.

"But I thought the bench gave us impetus when they came on, it was good and I'm pleased with that. But no complaints about the result, I thought the All Blacks deserved to win."

Steve Hansen was left to rue "one bad day" but expressed his pride after his New Zealand reign ended with a 40-17 drubbing of Wales in the Rugby World Cup bronze final.

The All Blacks scored six tries in an entertaining third-place play-off at Tokyo Stadium on Friday after a week of licking their wounds following a semi-final defeat to England.

Ben Smith claimed a first-half double and had another try ruled out in his final Test, while Ryan Crotty likewise touched down in his New Zealand swansong.

Captain Kieran Read was also among several All Blacks playing their last internationals at the end of Hansen's glorious reign, and the head coach was impressed with the character shown by his side six days after they were dethroned.

"It was just important we came back and honoured the jersey and our fans and get over the disappointment of last week." said Hansen, who has spent 15 years on the New Zealand coaching staff.

"It was a tough old game for both sides and I want to congratulate Wales because they'll be feeling a little bad at the moment.

"All tournament, we've had great defence and played pretty good footy all the way through. One bad day, you lose a game and you miss out, that is what knockout football is about. But I'm really proud of the boys today."

Man of the match Brodie Retallick said the two-time defending champions were desperate to sign off by showing what they are capable of.

"After last week, we wanted to come back and put on a performance we could be proud of and, for all of our supporters, we're thankful to come out with the win." said the lock.

"We had to use that as motivation to come and do what we did tonight. It took a great effort and I'm really proud of what we did tonight."

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