Wales coach Warren Gatland only focused on next month's World Cup

Wales coach Warren Gatland insists he’s looking no further than next month’s World Cup after the Kiwi was backed to stay in charge until 2027 by WRU chief Nigel Walker

  • Warren Gatland has been backed to lead Wales all the way to the 2027 World Cup
  • Injured Dan Biggar will not be risked in World Cup warm up against South Africa
  • Wales coach will name his 33-man squad for the World Cup on Monday

Warren Gatland said he was looking no further ahead than next month’s World Cup after receiving unanimous backing from his bosses to continue as Wales coach until 2027.

When Gatland made a dramatic return to Welsh rugby’s hot seat in December, he signed a five-year deal with a break clause inserted for after the upcoming tournament in France.

At a press conference at Principality Stadium on Thursday to announce the appointment of Abi Tierney as the Welsh Rugby Union’s first female chief executive, Nigel Walker – the man who has held the position on an interim basis since January – gave his unequivocal backing to Gatland.

‘We feel we have one of the best coaches in the world, if not the best,’ Walker said.

‘I’m confident Wales will do well in the World Cup. There is a clause but I cannot see any circumstances whereby we would invoke that clause.’

Warren Gatland has been backed to lead Wales all the way to the 2027 World Cup

After ruling experienced backs Liam Williams and Dan Biggar out of his side to face South Africa on Saturday, Gatland was asked to respond to Walker’s ringing endorsement.

He said: ‘We’ll see how the World Cup goes! I am just focusing on the short term. I have never been a person who thinks long term too much in terms of my own personal situation.

‘I have already said that the work this group has done and strides we’ve made means I think we can do something pretty special at this World Cup. I honestly believe that.

‘If that happens, then those other things take care of themselves.’

Gatland will name his official 33-man World Cup squad on Monday.

It means Saturday’s last warm-up clash with South Africa is a final chance for players to earn a plane ticket to France.

Wales announced their team on Wednesday, but Gatland confirmed there was no point in risking experienced backs Williams and Biggar who are nursing minor hamstring and back niggles.

Dan Biggar will not be risked against South Africa on Saturday due to a back issue


WALES:  Cai Evans; Alex Cuthbert, Mason Grady, Johnny Williams, Rio Dyer; Sam Costelow, Kieran Hardy; Corey Domachowski, Elliot Dee, Keiron Assiratti, Ben Carter, Will Rowlands, Dan Lydiate, Jac Morgan (capt), Aaron Wainwright

Replacements: Sam Parry, Nicky Smith, Henry Thomas, Teddy Williams, Taine Basham, Tomos Williams, Max Llewellyn, Tom Rogers

SOUTH AFRICA: Willie le Roux; Canan Moodie, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe; Manie Libbok, Jaden Hendrikse; Steven Kitshoff, Malcom Marx, Frans Malherbe, Jean Kleyn, RG Snyman, Siya Kolisi (capt), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jasper Wiese

Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche, Vincent Koch, Franco Mostert, Marco van Staden, Duane Vermeulen, Grant Williams, Damian Willemse

Kick-off: 3.15pm Saturday (Principality Stadium, Cardiff)

Sam Costelow replaces Biggar in the Wales No 10 shirt. Cai Evans’ Test debut will now come at full-back and not from the bench as he steps in for Williams.

Tom Rogers comes on to the bench. Evans will begin wearing 15 but will also cover 10 if Costelow goes down.

‘They’re not serious at all,’ Gatland said of Biggar and Williams.

‘If we pushed them hard, they could both play on Saturday. But the decision was made there is no point taking a risk at this stage.’

That is entirely sensible.

Biggar and Williams are certainties to go to the World Cup and start the pool opener with Fiji on September 10 so it would have been reckless to play them with a knock.

Gatland did have some good news on the injury front.

Of his current extended squad, Taulupe Faletau, Gareth Anscombe, Dewi Lake, Ryan Elias, Dafydd Jenkins and Taine Plumtree are all currently on the sidelines.

Wales are hopeful all six will be fit for Fiji, but Gatland admitted he has a balancing act to do with how many injured players he is prepared to name in his 33.

‘I think we are getting a little bit closer,’ Gatland said, when asked if he was near to naming his final World Cup party. 

‘There is an opportunity for players on Saturday.

Cai Evans’ Test debut will now come at full-back as he steps in for Liam Williams

‘We will come back as a coaching group after the game and finalise the squad. We are confident those players carrying injuries are going to be available for the first game against Fiji.’

Gatland was not keen to engage on the ongoing rugby farce that is the Owen Farrell debacle.

The England captain will face a new hearing at the start of next week after World Rugby appealed the initial decision to remove the red card he was given for a high tackle on Wales’ Taine Basham at Twickenham last weekend. It remains to be seen if Farrell will or will not face a ban which will impact his World Cup participation.

Despite being technically available to feature in England’s World Cup warm-up with Ireland on Saturday, Farrell was left out of Steve Borthwick’s side.

‘What we want is certainty and clarity,’ said Gatland on the debate around Farrell.

‘That’s what you’re hoping for from the referees and not just the officials, but any situations. I was forthright about the fact he (Farrell) has got to get his technique a little bit better.

‘It’s something we talk with players about. If you don’t bend at the hips then you’re putting yourself in a situation where you can potentially get yellow or red carded.

‘I’d like to think all coaches talk about tackle technique.’

Gatland has bigger fish to fry than Farrell and must focus on Wales. He is now looking forward, not back.

Abi Tierney has been appointed as the first female chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union

He will want to see big games from backs Alex Cuthbert and Johnny Williams against a formidable South Africa side, one which has iconic captain Siya Kolisi back after knee surgery.

Ben Carter will also be challenged to impress at lock.

‘I’m not looking for an 80-minute performance because they haven’t had a lot of rugby but I think they’re pretty well aware they’ve got to go out and give a really strong performance to be able to put their hand up,’ Gatland said of Johnny Williams and Cuthbert.

‘They’ve been unlucky but they both get an opportunity on Saturday.’

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