Warren Gatland Wales

Wales head coach Warren Gatland. Pic: Getty Images.

Warren Gatland Goes Young Guns And Old Heads In Hope Of Kickstarting Stalled Wales

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By David Williams

Warren Gatland has promised to nurse his latest group of youngsters through their four-match summer series and to give some of his more experienced players a “kick up the arse”.

Wales head to Twickenham on 22 June to face the world champion Springboks before travelling to Australia for a two-Test series against the Wallabies and a final fixture with Queensland Reds.

It is all part of Gatland’s master plan to expose his youngsters to the harsh reality of the international arena in a bid to grow depth and competition within his squad after suffering a first Six Nations whitewash earlier in the year.

The 36-strong training squad contains eight players who won’t be available to face the world champions.

They could lose another half-dozen if the Ospreys go all the way to the URC Grand Final and they are missing three old heads in Josh Adams, Will Rowlands and Ryan Elias, who have been given the chance to take the summer off to freshen up.

Add in injuries to British & Irish Lions duo Taulupe Faletau and Adam Beard, as well as 50+ cap scrum half Tomos Williams, and Gatland is down to the bare bones as he chases his first win of the year.

“There are some young players in here that we’re going to give some time to and there’s probably a few players who were selected who need a kick up the arse in terms of some of their performances and some of their testing results that weren’t good enough or what we expect from a national perspective,” said Gatland.

“We are where we are at the moment, but I do see light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve just got to make sure that we work incredibly hard to improve performances and results.

“The public want to see improvement – they want to see a group of players giving it 100% and wearing their jersey with pride. I can’t question how the players tried during the Six Nations.

“There’s no doubt that it was there, we just weren’t accurate enough, and that was probably down to some lack of experience within the group. We’ve got to build on that.”

Among the four uncapped players in the squad, all of them three-quarters, Gatland has obviously learned from recent lessons from the Immanuel Feyi-Waboso saga and picked the 20-year-old dual-qualified Gloucester wing Josh Hathaway.

Cardiff-born Feyi-Waboso picked England over Wales for the Six Nations and became an instant hit in white.

The fleet-footed Hathaway has played for both Wales and England at U20 level and Gatland wasn’t going to let another prospect slip through the net.

“We want to make sure we qualify Josh for Wales because he’s a young player with a lot of potential. We think there is a lot of improvement in his game, whether it is wing or full-back,” added Gatland.

“He has done some really impressive things for Gloucester on attack this year, and we want to bring him into the squad and see what we can do with him.”

Cardiff duo Ellis Bevan and Jacob Beetham, who was being chased by Scotland, are joined by Ospreys wing Keelan Giles as the other uncapped players. There is also a recall for two stalwarts currently plying their trade in Japan – lock Cory Hill and wing-cum-full back Liam Williams.

Williams is recalled after missing this season’s Six Nations due to club commitments in Japan, while 32-year-old lock Hill, who plays for Japanese fourth division club Secom Rugguts, has been named among five second-row forwards.

Wing Adams, hooker Ryan Elias and lock Rowlands, meanwhile, are rested, Jac Morgan and Dewi Lake return after missing the Six Nations through injury, but fly-half Ioan Lloyd and flanker Alex Mann are notable selection absentees.

The current group will be reduced to 34 players after the South Africa Test, with Gatland yet to name a captain either for that game or the tour.

Wales’ clash against the world champion Springboks at Twickenham on June 22 is outside World Rugby’s international fixture window, which means Gatland will be without England-based players such as Hathaway, Nick Tompkins, Dafydd Jenkins, Christ Tshiunza and Tommy Reffell for that fixture.

The squad will then head Down Under for appointments with Australia in Sydney on July 6 and Melbourne seven days later, before tackling Queensland Reds on July 19.

And the challenge promises to be a considerable one as Wales prepare to face the world champion Springboks and an Australia team now under former Ireland boss Joe Schmidt’s direction after finishing as Six Nations wooden-spoonists.


Forwards: Corey Domachowski (Cardiff Rugby), Kemsley Mathias (Scarlets), Gareth Thomas (Ospreys), Elliot Dee (Dragons), Dewi Lake (Ospreys), Evan Lloyd (Cardiff Rugby), Sam Parry (Ospreys), Keiron Assiratti (Cardiff Rugby), Archie Griffin (Bath Rugby), Dillon Lewis (Harlequins), Harri O’Connor (Scarlets), Henry Thomas (Castres Olympique), Ben Carter (Dragons), Cory Hill (Secom Rugguts), Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs),
Matthew Screech (Dragons), Christ Tshiunza (Exeter Chiefs), Mackenzie Martin (Cardiff Rugby), Jac Morgan (Ospreys), Taine Plumtree (Scarlets), Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers), Aaron Wainwright (Dragons)

Backs: Ellis Bevan (Cardiff Rugby), Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Kieran Hardy (Scarlets), Sam Costelow (Scarlets), Mason Grady (Cardiff Rugby), Ben Thomas (Cardiff Rugby), Nick Tompkins (Saracens), Owen Watkin (Ospreys), Rio Dyer (Dragons), Keelan Giles (Ospreys), Josh Hathaway (Gloucester Rugby), Liam Williams (Kubota Spears), Jacob Beetham (Cardiff Rugby), Cameron Winnett (Cardiff Rugby)

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