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Warren Gatland urges Wales players to stake claim for Six Nations spot

03 Nov 2023 4 minute read
Wales head coach Warren Gatland during a press conference at the Stade de Nice. Photo David Davies/PA Wire.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland believes that players can put down a Six Nations selection marker in Saturday’s clash against the Barbarians.

Gatland fields 12 of Wales’ Rugby World Cup squad among his starting XV at the Principality Stadium.

But he is also minus all players based outside Wales, with a star-studded list headed by the likes of Louis Rees-Zammit, Nick Tompkins and Will Rowlands.

The non-cap game is a tribute to ex-Wales forwards Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric, who retired from Test rugby earlier this year and will line up in Barbarians colours.

And full-back Leigh Halfpenny will join them, making a final Wales appearance after he recently announced his decision to step away from the international game.

The fixture’s scheduling, though, has been criticised, especially as the Welsh regions – Ospreys, Scarlets, Cardiff and Dragons – have United Rugby Championship matches this weekend.

Scarlets host Cardiff barely an hour after the Wales game finishes and, while Gatland named only a 23-man squad to help with regional player availability, all four sides have been weakened.

It is Wales’ final game before a Six Nations opener against Scotland on February 3 and there will be a new look to elements of Gatland’s group for the tournament.

Dan Biggar called time on his Test career after the World Cup, with fellow backs Liam Williams and Gareth Anscombe set for playing stints in Japan during the first half of next year.


Tom Rogers, Ben Carter, Teddy Williams, Harri O’Connor and Taine Plumtree will be among those looking to make an impression on Saturday, and Gatland said: “There is an an opportunity without players outside of Wales for people to put down a marker in terms of being involved in the Six Nations.

“I had a chat with the players about that earlier in the week and said they want to be in a situation where it is harder to play your way into this team, but it is easy to play your way out.

“I have demonstrated in the past that I have been pretty loyal to players who have gone out, put that jersey on and performed well.

“And for those players who do that it is a good opportunity to be selected for the Six Nations.

“We have kind of drawn a line under the World Cup now and we are talking about this next cycle and how we manage that – this group of players coming through.

“We haven’t got a number of players available to us, but there is a good chance for these young Welsh players that are here to go out there and see if they can give a performance.”

Jones, meanwhile, will captain the Barbarians, who are coached by Eddie Jones and Scott Robertson, with Tipuric packing down alongside back-row colleagues Michael Hooper and Rob Valetini.

Nine of the starting line-up played in the World Cup, including Valetini, Fiji wing Selestino Ravutaumada, Argentina fly-half Nicolas Sanchez and Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou.

But it will be a special day for Jones, Tipuric and Halfpenny – they have 352 caps between them – which is not lost on Wales captain Jac Morgan.

“Their professionalism and the standards they set as players, it is pretty inspirational for the young boys coming through and what we look to be like,” Morgan said.

“Even towards the end of their careers, they are probably among the last people out on the training field still trying to get better and improve.”

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