Gareth Bale one of THREE Wales stars wrapped in cotton wool to be ready for massive World Cup play-off with Austria

GARETH BALE is one of three Wales big-hitters being nursed ahead of Thursday’s World Cup date with destiny.

The Dragons captain took part in training on Tuesday in a major boost before the play-off semi- final tie with Austria in Cardiff.

But Bale, as well as Aaron Ramsey and Ethan Ampadu, had their workload carefully managed by fitness staff because they were in recovery mode.

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Real Madrid superstar Bale missed Sunday’s El Clasico 4-0 hammering by Barcelona after Carlo Ancelotti said he did not feel well, while reports in Spain claimed Bale had a ‘bad back’.

Ampadu and Ramsey played for Venezia and Rangers respectively three days ago but Wales took no chances before the crunch home clash as they bid to reach a World Cup for the first time since 1958.

During a warm-up running drill where the players were put in groups of four, fitness coach Ronan Kavanagh said on Wales’ Instagram live: “Lads on recovery, take it nice and easy.”

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Bale, who has played just 77 minutes of club football for Real since featuring against Real Betis on August 28, replied ‘OK’ to the instruction.

After back-to-back Euros, the 32-year-old is desperate to reach the Qatar finals but boss Robert Page faces a big dilemma over how many minutes his talisman can give Wales, especially as the tie could go to extra-time.

Bale returned from a two-month lay-off to win his 100th cap against Belarus in the 5-1 victory in November. But the forward lasted just 45 minutes before picking up a calf injury.

Since then his only appearances came against Villarreal before a three-minute Champions League cameo as a substitute away in the last-16, first leg to Paris Saint-Germain last month.

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