Warren Gatland

Wales head coach, Warren Gatland. Pic: Getty Images.

Warren Gatland Says Next Up Are Mason Grady And Keiran Williams As New Wales Era Intensifies

By Gareth James

Warren Gatland has suggested his young blood policy is only half complete with Wales youngsters Mason Grady and Keiran Williams waiting in the wings.

The Wales coach left experienced trio Alun Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau and Justin Tipuric out of Wales’ starting line-up for Saturday’s Six Nations clash against Scotland.

Now, the New Zealander has revealed he is keeping close tabs on Ospreys centre Williams and Cardiff centre Grady with a view to promoting them in the way he has with Dafydd Jenkins, Christ Tshiunza and Tommy Reffell.

Asked about the new broom approach with Jenkins and Tshiunza, Gatland said: “It’s not just those guys. “Tommy Reffell is 23, Jac Morgan is 23. I’m excited about Keiran Williams and Mason Grady has been training the house down.

“He’s really come on being in with us and you like to see these guys get an opportunity. We should have Louis Rees-Zammit back for the England week, too.”

When it was suggested that leaving out 342 caps-worth of experience in Jones, Faletau and Tipuric was difficult, Gatland insisted: “No, it wasn’t.

“It wasn’t hard at all because as a group this was part of the conversation from day one.

“We’ve realised we’ve got a bit of a disparity between the experience and the inexperience in the squad.

“How do we get these youngsters some game time and get them up to speed? That’s by playing international rugby. There hasn’t been any change in our thinking.

“There is definitely some huge talent there at the moment, and we need to find ways to give them opportunities to get that experience.

“Last week was about finding out where we are as a squad with the players we picked, and we always spoke about how do we give the young players an opportunity.

“There has been no knee-jerk reaction, because this has been part of the plan right from day one.

“I have spoken about it as well and said we need to find out about some of these youngsters.

“I have done that in the past by making lots and lots of changes in the autumn, but it is about finding the right mix.”

Gatland has hailed Scotland star Finn Russell as someone who “plays with a smile on his face” ahead of the clash at Murrayfield.

Fly-half Russell delivered an assured display in Scotland’s outstanding Calcutta Cup victory over England on the tournament’s opening weekend.

Asked about Russell, Gatland said: “There is no doubt he has matured incredibly as a player.

“I think in the past, people would call him a maverick. I am not quite sure that tag is applicable at the moment.

“I just think with that maturity in his game-management, what he has learnt in his attacking game and kicking game, I think he has got an incredible balance.

“What I love about him is that he plays with a smile on his face. He is pretty relaxed in the way that he plays.

“He is pretty key for them, he is on top of his form and he was excellent for them last week.”

Scotland have never won their opening two games of a Six Nations campaign, while recent home fortunes against Wales show six defeats from the last seven meetings.

The Scots will encounter a Wales pack containing just two survivors in their starting positions – hooker Ken Owens and lock Adam Beard – following a 34-10 opening weekend defeat against Ireland.

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