Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey in Wales squad for World Cup play-off v Austria

Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium Date: Thursday, 24 March Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Live BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru, BBC Sport website and app, plus live text online. Highlights BBC Two Wales from 23:15 GMT and later on demand

Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey will lead Wales’ World Cup qualifier play-off semi-final challenge against Austria in Cardiff next week.

Wales boss Robert Page will be hoping the influential duo are clear of the injury issues that have disrupted their club seasons.

But Wales will be without keeper Danny Ward, Tyler Roberts and James Lawrence for the match on Thursday, 24 March.

Rabbi Matondo and keeper Tom King are back to help plug those gaps.

Forward Matondo is recalled after impressing for Cercle Bruges on loan from Stoke City, a year after he was sent home from Wales’ squad for a protocol breach.

Ward is absent because of a knee injury that has led to surgery with his Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers saying: “He’s out for a number of weeks.”

James Lawrence is also absent as he recovers at St Pauli from a thigh injury.

The inclusion of Bale and Ramsey is a boost – but both have had limited game-time this season.

Captain Bale has made only two appearances for Real Madrid since Wales last played in November.

As for Ramsey, since joining Rangers on loan from Juventus in January, only two of his five appearances have been starts.

“They’re big players for us, of course they are. We want them playing games coming into camp, but the good thing is they’re fit,” said Page.

“I’ve spoken to many of the players and those two in particular, and they’re both raring to go.

“They both can’t wait to get into camp, so that’s really encouraging for a manager to hear.

“They’ve done it time and time again, haven’t they? I don’t think we’ve ever had a camp where we’ve had all our players playing the weekend before.

“But big players turn up for big games and they’ve proven that over time. The other way of looking at it is they’ll be fresh and raring to go.”

With Ward out injured, goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey will reach 100 caps if he plays against Austria and in the friendly – against an unconfirmed opponent – the following week.

“I can’t speak highly enough of him [Hennessey], I honestly can’t,” said Page.

“He’s reacted in such a positive way since I gave the number one spot to Danny. The way he reacted was tremendous and he was fully supportive of Wardy.

“Watching him in training, some of the saves he pulls off are outstanding and when you do that, you’ll be ready.

“To have a number two like Wayne, who’s been number one for a long time and approaching 100 caps, it fills me with confidence.”

The winner of Wales and Austria’s semi-final were due to face the winner of Scotland against Ukraine but, due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that game has been postponed.

Scotland and Ukraine’s fixture will now be played in June, with the play-off final to follow in the same month.

Austria’s squad includes Bale’s Real Madrid team-mate David Alaba and ex-Stoke City and West Ham United forward Marko Arnautovic as well as Watford goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann, who had a loan spell with Wrexham during 2014-15.

Austria boss Franco Foda said: “You could see in the World Cup qualifiers that they [Wales] are very strong, after all they haven’t lost a game at home.

“In general, they concede few goals and are good at switching games. We’ll have a lot of possession, we can’t afford to make any mistakes when passing and we have to avoid counter-attacks.

He added: “Such games are often decided in our heads. We have to be convinced of our own qualities and show a good mentality in the duels.”

Wales squad

Goalkeepers: Hennessey, A Davies, King

Defenders: B Davies, Rodon, Cabango, Ampadu, Mepham, N Williams, Norrington-Davies, Roberts, Gunter

Midfielders: Levitt, Ramsey, Colwill, Morrell, Vaulks, Allen, Wilson, Williams, S Thomas

Forwards: Bale, Johnson, Harris, James, Matondo

Austria squad

Goalkeepers: Bachmann, Lindner, Pentz

Defenders: Alaba, Dragovic, Hinteregger, Lainer, Lienhart, Posch, Trimmel, Ulmer

Midfielders: Baumgartner, Grillitsch, Grull, Laimer, Lazaro, Ljubicic, Sabitzer, Schaub, Schlager, Seiwalk

Forwards: Arnautovic, Gregoritsch, Kalajdzic

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