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Warren Gatland: Finding the right blend between youth and experience the key for Wales

Wales coach Warren Gatland believes that balancing a mix of youth and experience within his Wales team into the forthcoming Six Nations will be important going forward into his tenure.

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Kiwi, Gatland, 59, returning to for his second spell as coach of the Wales national side, named a blend of regular national stall wards, amongst a mix of new faces to his squad for the Six Nations campaign kicking off at the Principality Stadium in just over two weeks’ time against the World number one rankled side Ireland.

With one eye on September’s Rugby World Cup in France, Gatland is keen to both provide opportunities for new players to compete for places within his squad, naming four uncapped players amongst his 37 strong squad to join the likes of Rio Dyer, Joe Hawkins and Dafydd Jenkins who made their Welsh bows in the autumn international period.

The inclusion of both six-foot six Cardiff Blues duo back Mason Brady and Lock Teddy Williams, along with Ospreys pair Kieran Williams and Rhys Davies for the first time in the Wales squad, a sign of intent by the Kiwi in building towards the future.

Warren Gatland
(Image: Planet Rugby)

“Mason [Grady] is a big man, has potential and but has got some development to do. He’s been involved in the past even though he wasn’t named in the squad he’s trained with the team. I’ve been impressed by a couple of the performances I’ve seen from him and there’s definitely more to come”, said Gatland.

“Kieran [Williams] is a bit different, he reminds me of a young Scott Gibbs in the way that he plays and his stature. He has fantastic footwork in getting across the game line. He’s a bit different, that’s exciting and it will be a great opportunity for him.

“As for the two forwards, Rhys [Davies] has been involved in the squad as well and with Teddy [Williams] it’s a good opportunity for him to see what he can bring to the squad. It’s a position that we need to develop some depth in”.

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Whilst the long-term focus is on blooding the next generation, Gatland also identified the need for experience within his squad for the campaign in his squad selection. Dan Biggar and Liam Williams both missed out on the autumn matches through injury return with notable recalls for Rhys Patchell, Aaron Wainwright and Rhys Webb amongst other changes with Gatland weighing up short- and long-term goals.

“The challenge for us now is how do I balance a number of older players that have been around for a number of years that have continued to have been part of the squad, with how many changes we make”, continued Gatland.

“How many players do you bring in? because we need to give some of those youngsters and opportunity during the Six Nations, World Cup warmup games and leading into the World Cup.

“It’s a bit of a balancing act, it’s reflected in the squad we’ve picked. We have picked some experienced players that we want to still be part of it.

“We also have to look to give chances to a lot of those young players in the squad. If you look, many have not got a lot of caps behind their names and they need to gain more experience.

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“We’ve seen teams in the past arrive at World Cup’s with older players, older squads and you pick up three or four injuries and all of a sudden, you’re throwing in players that haven’t had a lot of experience.

“That’s kind of part of our thinking. It’s important that we want to do well in the Six Nations, but we have got to think about the next ten months as well.”

(Lead image: Shutterstock)

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