Warren Gatland has told his Wales rookies they can help Wales succeed at next year’s World Cup – even if they don’t make it into the team.
The Wales coach admitted the value of last weekend’s 22-20 victory over South Africa – played out in Washington DC between two vastly under-strength sides before a meagre crowd – may not be known until September of next year.
That is when Wales will be in Japan for the World Cup, by which stage the missing dozen or so players from the current tour may well be back in the starting line-up.
If they are, then they should thank the youngsters currently on tour for putting the old-timers under stress.
“The biggest thing that I want is for guys to be under pressure,” said Gatland.
“We were pretty straight up with these guys and they’re all well aware of what we’ve been trying to do in the last 18 months and that’s to really develop some depth and some competition in certain positions.
“Hopefully there’s a few of those ten or 11 players sitting at home at the moment watching Wales but also realising that there are a couple of players that have played exceptionally well and have won.”
Although Gatland welcomed the solid performance against the Springboks, he admitted Argentina will also pose a serious challenge over the two matches for the remainder of the tour.
He added: “We got a huge amount out of this game. I thought our set-piece was pretty good, particularly in the first 60 minutes. We put ourselves under a little bit of pressure but you expect that.
“There will be a lot of positives for us to take from this and we’ve got a couple of tough games against Argentina.
“Most of them play for the Jaguares team so they’ll be fairly familiar with everything and they’ve done well in Super Rugby so it’s something for us to look forward to.”
Gatland criticised Premiership Rugby Limited after calling up Josh Adams and Tomas Francis the two-Test tour of Argentina.
Both players were dropped from Gatland’s initial party after PRL refused to release them – plus Bath’s Luke Charteris – for the game with South Africa in the United States.
The encounter with the Springboks in Washington fell outside World Rugby’s designated Test window, meaning PRL were within their rights to take their decision, but Gatland feels the situation could have been handled better.
“Every other country is playing three games – England are playing four – and we finish our tour a week earlier than them,” Gatland said.
“I understand completely what PRL are trying to do in the autumn when we organise a fourth international. They’re protecting their own competition.
“Players go back during the Six Nations down weeks and I understand that too, but I just can’t understand why they would stop players from joining us a week or two early.
“The club season is finished and the players are going to be back with their clubs early anyway. It’s a sad indictment on the politics of the game.
“I understand and accept completely the views on the other stuff, but this one just doesn’t make sense to me.”
Wales’ games with Argentina fall within the calendar’s window, which runs from June 9-23, and Gatland wasted no time calling up both Adams and Francis.
The arrival of Worcester wing Adams is a boost after Steffan Evans was ruled out of facing Argentina with a knee injury suffered in the 22-20 win over South Africa.
Exeter prop Francis provides tighthead cover for Samson Lee (back), who did not play against the Springboks.
“Josh will be involved for the last two weeks. We’ve got enough cover on the wing to take care of it and both our 10s can play 15 as well,” Gatland said.
“George North can go back to the wing too. It’s a shame for Steff, but it’s one injury not three or four.”
Wales secured a dramatic late victory at the RFK Stadium as Ryan Elias crossed for the match-winning try after earlier efforts from Hallam Amos and debutant Tomos Williams.