Hold Your Nose . . . And Take The Money, Says Wales Coach Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland Wales. Pic: Getty Images

Hold Your Nose . . . And Take The Money, Says Wales Coach Warren Gatland

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By David Williams

Warren Gatland’s Wales team will get the first chance to challenge the reigning world champions South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday in a game that will at least have a silver lining for his side.

Both teams have been brought in to add weight and appeal to the existing fixture between Fiji and the Barbarians that takes place afterwards.

It will give Gatland’s men a good run out ahead of their two-Test tour to Australia next month and also swell the coffers of the Welsh Rugby Union.

The two teams – who since 2007 have played for the Prince William Cup – will, instead, be scrapping it out for the Qatar Airways Cup at the home of English rugby.

The Springboks beat New Zealand at Twickenham last August in a precursor to their triumph over them in the World Cup final a few months later.

That game was also for the Qatar Airways Cup and the changing face of rugby sponsorship doesn’t present any problems to Gatland.

“Take the money and run, that’s my approach. I think it is what the game needs – although I do care where the money comes from,” said Gatland.

“If there is a chance to look at external investment, which is widely done in football, I don’t see any difference or reason why rugby should not be looking at different opportunities.

“As long as we are smart in terms of how we approach that, and there is an opportunity to grow the game, invest and put the money back into the game.

“It has been done in golf as well. There has been a huge amount of strain, not just in Wales, but everywhere within the game in rugby in the last few years post-Covid and the impact that has had.

“I definitely think there has been a reset but having that investment externally could be a positive in terms of maybe growing the game globally.”

With more than a dozen front line players unavailable because of injury and unavailability for a game that is outside World Rugby’s normal regulations, the last thing Gatland wanted was for his best player, Ospreys flanker Jac Morgan, to join the ‘missing’ list.

Morgan has been ruled out of Saturday’s game, as well as the two Tests against the Wallabies and the extra fixture against Queensland Reds, because of a nagging hamstring injury. Not the preparation you want ahead of a game against the world’s best side.

If it feels as though Gatland is back to ground zero with his side, he is relishing the chance to pit his youngsters against the No. 1 ranked team in the world.

“I don’t see it any differently to when I arrived in 2008 and was asked by the WRU CEO Roger Lewis ‘who do you want to play’.

“I said any time we can play a southern hemisphere team we need to jump at that chance,” said Gatland.

“That is the way you improve, by playing against the best. That’s not just in rugby but any sport – it is the biggest part of your development.

“Test match rugby is tough and physical, and you have got to be able to handle adversity. It is probably not the politically correct thing at the moment in today’s society but you have to be mentally tough.

“You have to go through that pain sometimes and be able to come out the other side. There is nothing wrong with that – you have to be brave and overcome your fear factor.

“You are going out there and playing against big men and it’s going to hurt. You have to go through some pain.”

Wales: C Winnett (Cardiff Rugby); L Williams (Kubota Spears), O Watkin (Ospreys), M Grady (Cardiff Rugby), R Dyer (Dragons); Sam Costelow (Scarlets), E Bevan (Cardiff Rugby); G Thomas (Ospreys), D Lake (Ospreys), H Thomas (Scarlets), B Carter (Dragons), M Screech (Dragons), T Plumtree (Scarlets), J Botham (Cardiff Rugby), A Wainwright (Dragons)

Reps: E Lloyd (Cardiff Rugby), K Mathias (Scarlets), K Assiratti (Cardiff Rugby), J Ratti (Ospreys), M Martin (Cardiff Rugby), G Davies (Scarlets) E James (Scarlets), J Beetham (Cardiff Rugby)

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