Gatland says South Africa thumping helps World Cup selection
Warren Gatland said Wales’ record defeat to South Africa in Cardiff had made his World Cup selection task easier.
Gatland names his 33-man World Cup squad on Monday on the back of a chastening 52-16 thumping to the Springboks.
After two warm-up games against England, in which Wales won once and lost once and generally saw the reputation of their young team enhanced, Gatland’s side were dismantled by opponents boasting 659 Test caps to their 235.
South Africa’s victory – the first time Wales have conceded 50 points under Gatland – comfortably eclipsed their previous biggest win in Cardiff – a 34-12 in 2007.
Asked if the game had answered a lot of questions on his World Cup selection before next month’s tournament in France, head coach Gatland said: “I think so. We’ll go back to the hotel, sit down as coaches and hopefully finalise it.
“If we need to have more discussion hopefully we can do that on Sunday. Possibly some of those questions that we’ve got would have made it a little bit easier for our discussions.
“It was disappointing. I thought we were dominated physically on both sides of the ball.
“We’d spoken to the players about the physicality they’d bring and playing against the world champions. They’d just come out of a Rugby Championship.
“The only positive I can take is hopefully there’s a lot of learning that some of those players will have got from it.”
Experienced trio Alex Cuthbert Dan Biggar and Liam Williams all dropped out of the original team with minor injuries.
Wales have more pressing concerns on the injury front with hookers Dewi Lake and Ryan Elias, second row forward Dafydd Jenkins and back-rower Taine Plumtree all picking up knocks during the August matches.
Gatland also has to make calls on number eight Taulupe Faletau and outside-half Gareth Anscombe, who did not feature in the three games.
On Faletau and Anscombe, Gatland said: “I think they are in contention because of their experience.
“If they were a young player it would be very, very difficult to select them, but given their vast amount of experience they will definitely be part of those discussions.
“Part of the thing we wanted to do was everyone take part in training this week to build confidence.
“When you have a defeat like that, it’s about how do you look at the positives when you are reviewing it as a group.
“There’s some easy fixes in terms of probably four or five of those tries are easy enough to stop and then all of a sudden there’s a different complexion on the game.”
Gatland was critical of the 34th-minute yellow card given to Rio Dyer when Wales trailed 12-9.
Dyer batted a loose ball away from Canan Moodie as he closed in on a try, but replays appeared to show that it had hit the hand of the Springboks wing first. A penalty try was awarded and South Africa scored 12 points with the wing off the field.
“I thought Rio Dyer was really unlucky to have a yellow card and a penalty try because the angles we’ve looked at we are 100 per cent certain it’s touched the green player,” said Gatland.
“For me that’s a pretty tough call and we’ve conceded straight away from the kick-off. It was an important moment in terms of the way the game went.”
South Africa find themselves in arguably the toughest World Cup pool with Ireland, Scotland and Tonga for company.
The Springboks start the defence of the trophy they won in Japan four years ago against Scotland in Marseille on September 10.
“We have to get better in France,” said South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber after his side’s eight-try show in Cardiff.
“We are on the side of the draw that is knock-out from game one. Just to get out of pool we have to be on form.”
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