Warren Gatland says players ‘desperate to perform’ to make Wales’ World Cup squad
Warren Gatland says he will send out a team ‘desperate to perform’ against England at Twickenham next weekend as competition for World Cup places intensifies.
Wales boss Gatland is relishing the battle to make a 33-strong World Cup squad that will be announced later this month.
The final phase of preparation for the tournament could hardly have started in more promising fashion, with Wales’ 20-9 victory over England being underpinned by a dominant second-half display.
It was Wales’ third-biggest win of the professional era against their fierce rivals, and Gatland will now run the rule over other World Cup selection candidates in south-west London.
“There is a lot of competition in the squad,” Gatland said.
“In 2019 when we won the (Six Nations) Grand Slam, we had a settled side and we knew what a large number of our World Cup squad was going to be.
“I can tell you now there is a lot of competition in this team. It’s a good start, and the pleasing thing is there’s a group of players who will get an opportunity next week who are desperate to perform.
“I think the boys showed the work we’ve done over the past eight weeks or so that we are in a pretty good place, physically.”
Wales kept an England side that conceded 22 turnovers scoreless in the second period, turning around a 9-6 interval deficit to triumph through tries from scrum-half Gareth Davies and centre George North.
Full-back Leigh Halfpenny converted both scores and kicked two penalties on his 100th Wales appearance, leaving him just five points short of 800 in Test rugby.
Wales paraded five new caps, with the second-half introductions of former England prop Henry Thomas and back-row forward Taine Plumtree proving key to Gatland’s men posting a first home victory since November last year.
Gatland, meanwhile, said that hooker Ryan Elias and lock Dafydd Jenkins will undergo scans on Monday after being forced off with hamstring and knee injuries, respectively.
Among several eye-catching performances was that of fly-half Sam Costelow, who took his chance to shine in front of a 65,000 Principality Stadium crowd.
“I will take a lot of learnings from it. It showed me where I want to be and where I can get,” Costelow said.
“I have been doing a lot of work with (Wales assistant coach) Neil Jenkins in the training week, helping me with kicking and the game-management side of things. It is about keeping improving.
“You have just got to work hard every day. That is the biggest mindset, really, turning up every day and trying to improve.
“In the second-half we managed to find a way and we started putting some phases together, and I thought we had some decent outcomes.
“We played in the right areas, getting opportunities higher up the field and creating chances, which we probably didn’t do in the first-half.”
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