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Gareth Anscombe Has Matured And Can Deliver For Wales For Years To Come, Says Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland insists the best is yet to come from Gareth Anscombe after naming him at No.10 for the opening autumn international against Scotland on Saturday.

Anscombe has been selected in the absence of the unavailable Dan Biggar, but the Wales coach has suggested the battle between the two contenders for the outside-half spot has never been as intense.

It is now four years since the 27-year-old Cardiff Blues player moved from New Zealand to pursue a Test career with Wales, but in that time he has only started eight Test matches, with just three of those with a No.10 on his back.

But after an impressive end to last season for the Blues, and an encouraging campaign so far, Gatland said: “I think we will see some really good rugby from him – hopefully, this season, and hopefully in a few years to come.

“You have to remember he came over here as a very young 10. He was still finding his feet in that position. Often you don’t expect your 10s to be any good until they are 26 or 27 and that is where he is at the moment.

“He made a big decision to leave New Zealand rugby to commit himself to Wales. He has admitted himself, he found that challenging at the start which is a brave thing for him to admit how difficult it was.

“But I think he has really matured in the last 12 months, he was outstanding on the Argentinean tour in a leadership role. I am looking forward to him having that 10 jersey on his back on Saturday.

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“We know he is equally good at 15, he has played a lot of Super Rugby in New Zealand there.

“Sometimes, having that opportunity in open spaces at 15 and understanding that position does help when you then go back to the 10 position. He realises it is a big chance for him on Saturday, as with everyone.”

Anscombe has the opportunity to make himself  indispensable in the first Test of the season, although Northampton-based Biggar will be available for the following Test against Australia.

But Gatland has stressed that his countryman offers a different type of threat to Biggar and that competition for the starting spot is about to intensify.

He added: “We have spoken about that on a number of occasions and we have been having conversations within the coaching set-up for quite a long time in terms of the strengths and the differences the different players give us.

“Dan has an excellent kicking game, is fantastic in the air and defensively is very strong.

“The others probably from an attacking perspective offer some variances there in what they can bring to the game, too.

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“We have got players we believe can fit the bill in terms of how we potentially want to play, depending on who the opposition is as well.

“It is good and challenging for those players in that position because they have all got things to work on.

“Dan knows himself, there are attacking things we are looking from his game and the others, some kicking out of hand stuff, some aerial work and defensively some things to work on, too. Those are the things we are working on with our 10s.”

Ospreys wing Luke Morgan – Wales’ record try-scorer on the World Sevens circuit – will make his Test debut at the Principality Stadium in a team containing eight British and Irish Lions.

There are also starts for Ospreys flanker Dan Lydiate, whose last international appearance was 11 months ago, and promising Cardiff Blues prop Dillon Lewis.

Morgan, meanwhile, only made his Guinness PRO14 debut in September after returning to the Ospreys following a six-year sevens stint.

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And Gatland added: “It is giving him an opportunity, really. He has taken his opportunities for the Ospreys and scored tries.

Shaun Edwards (Wales assistant coach) has been really happy with the way he has defended as well. There is a little bit of X-factor about him.”

Elsewhere, Dragons forward Cory Hill partners skipper Alun Wyn Jones in the second row, and centre Jonathan Davies – Lions player of the series against New Zealand last year – is back in midfield following his recovery from a serious foot injury suffered during the 2017 autumn Tests.

Up-front, 22-year-old Lewis earns the chance to impress alongside front-row colleagues Nicky Smith and Ken Owens against a Scotland pack now coached by his former Blues boss Danny Wilson

“Samson Lee (Scarlets prop) has a bit of a hamstring injury at the moment and has had some back problems that we are trying to rectify,” Gatland said.

“It is disappointing that he is injured, but Dillon Lewis gets another chance and I was really pleased with him in the summer.

“I think he has a point to prove against someone like Danny Wilson, who unfortunately did not rate Dillon that highly. So there is a bit of motivation in Dillon wanting to go out there and do well.”

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Gatland is back in the Wales camp for the start of a 13-Test World Cup countdown after returning to New Zealand last week following the death of his father.

“I would like to say a big thank you for all the messages of support I have had from last week,” he added.

“There have been hundreds, and myself and my family appreciate it. It made a big difference.”

Wales: L Halfpenny; G North, J Davies, H Parkes, L Morgan; G Anscombe, G Davies; N Smith, K Owens, D Lewis, C Hill, A Wyn Jones, D Lydiate, J Tipuric, R Moriarty.

Reps: E Dee, R Evans, L Brown, A Beard, A Wainwright, T Williams, J Evans, S Evans.


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