Warren Gatland Wales

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - OCTOBER 14: Warren Gatland, Head Coach of Wales, looks on during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Quarter Final match between Wales and Argentina at Stade Velodrome on October 14, 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Adam Pretty - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Warren Gatland Sifts Through Euro Damage To Piece Together Wales’ Six Nations Squad

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By Paul Jones

Warren Gatland will receive reports on his long list of injured players on Monday before he finalises selection decisions for the Wales Six Nations squad.

The head coach is due to announce his group for the tournament on Tuesday lunchtime, but has a raft of players he would like to pick currently unfit.

Chief among those is Taulupe Faletau, who has not played since breaking a bone in his arm during last year’s World Cup.

Also not playing at present are Jac Morgan, Taine Plumtree, Chris Tshiunza, Morgan Morris, Rhys Davies and Callum Sheedy.

Added to that are fresh injury problems picked up at the weekend for Dewi Lake and Sam Costelow, plus a likely lengthy suspension coming the way of Johhny Williams following his red card for a dangerous tackle, playing for the Scarlets.

Lake’s hamstring injury was suffered early on in the Ospreys’ win over Perpignan on Friday night and means Gatland could find himself needing to pick a new captain after both Lake and Morgan shared the job during the World Cup in France.

If Lake is unavailable – at least for the opening match against Scotland – then the most likely choice to replace him as skipper will be his Ospreys clubmate, Adam Beard.

Gatland has got used in the past to making the most of meagre resources, particularly after the Welsh regions have been exposed in European competition in the weeks leading into the Six Nations.

But this season will be a big test of his coaching abilities and the reasoning why he was re-hired by the Welsh Rugby Union to make an impact, that did not happen a year ago but was more in evidence over the longer time period of the World Cup.

The problems in Welsh rugby are deeper, though, than even 12 months ago and they were spelled out by Cardiff coach Matt Sherratt after his side had been hammered 54-14 at home to Harlequins in the Investec Champions Cup.

“We weren’t in the Champions Cup to win it,” said Sherratt.

“We qualified in the last game of the season as the bottom seeds and then had the equivalent of Real Madrid, Manchester City and Barcelona in our group,” said Sherratt.

“We’re playing against well-established clubs, not just with bigger budgets, but clubs that have spent years developing their squad, academies, staff, and the result of that is what you see now.

“We’re at the start of that process, but it’s in its infancy and it’s going to take time and if people are sat waiting for a quick fix, there isn’t one.

“We are going to have more nights like this and I’d be depressed if we didn’t know what the club was doing, but there’s a plan to develop youngsters, grow the facilities and the club.”

Two other Welsh regions also suffered defeat on a weekend when only the Ospreys were successful.

Cai Evans kicked the Dragons into a 12-point lead in Parma but the Welsh region was unable to build on their advantage before falling to a 20-17 defeat to Zebre in the EPCR Challenge Cup.

It means their chances of qualifying for the Round of 16 will depend on their Round 4 performance against another URC side, the Sharks back at Rodney Parade.

Head coach Dai Flanagan said: “Next week is massive. We’ve won our last three at home but now we have the Sharks coming to town, with some World Cup winners, so it’s a great opportunity to improve in front of our fans.”

The Scarlets’ thin hopes of making the Round of 16 in the EOPCR Challenge Cup were hit for six as Clermont Auvergne ran in half-a-dozen tries in their 38-17 home win.

To make matters worse for the visitors they had Wales centre Williams sent off in a third successive defeat for the Welsh region. It means they cannot qualify from their Pool with one more game to play.

Scarlets coach Dwayne Peel said: “It’s about having the guts to play and live up to what this club is all about.

“Injuries have plagued our season but we have one more game before everyone can take a break from rugby and get their bodies right because there’s plenty left in the URC.”

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