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Six Nations: Write off Wales at your peril… again

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Warren Gatland and the Wales national rugby team are basically a sporting version of conjoined twins. 

Since 2007 the New Zealand coach has had some form of affiliation with Wales – except from a two-year hiatus between 2020 and 2021 – but back in a role many thought he had given up for good little has changed.

Wales were competitive in his early years, winning a famous Grand Slam in 2008, but lost in the semi-finals at the World Cup three years later.

A victory in 2012 – a second consecutive one in the first year of a four-year World Cup cycle – culminated in a quarter-final exit at the 2015 showpiece event.

A Grand Slam ahead of the 2019 World Cup preceded a semi-final exit for Wales in Japan.

And a Six Nations title in 2021 came two years before the side were dumped out of last year’s World Cup in the quarter-finals.

It has been, then, an era of nearlies for Wales and Gatland has been at the centre of that for a number of those years. He cites learnings from those years as key to where Wales are heading now.

“I look back on the year we won the Grand Slam in 2008, I thought a lot of those players could go on to 2011. But some of them didn’t get there and then we ended up making changes early and quickly.

“It is about thinking about not just the short term, but the next three or four years or next eight or 10 years. It’s what I’ve looked at with where we are at the moment.

“It is a group of some really young talented players – Jac Morgan and Lewi Lake I think are going to be world class – and with Dafydd Jenkins, who’s already captaining Exeter.

“I see this as a chance for us to mould a group of talented youngsters who can drive the team going forward about how they want this team to operate and working with the coaches in setting standards, driving things from as a young group of quality players but also quality leaders and that’s what really excites me.

“The good thing is that we probably go in there without a huge amount of expectation or people writing us off and there’s a nice place to be in. Write us off at your peril.”

Though Gatland and Wales insisted contact was not thorough, England managed to snatch Cardiff-born Immanuel Feyi-Waboso an yet another example of poaching at the expense of Wales.

And during this Six Nations campaign an England A team will take on Portugal with any players selected for the pathway side counting as captured by England.

“I know that England have a game against Portugal during this Six Nations which is going to be hugely beneficial [for them].

“My advice for any Welsh qualified players is to think about keeping your options open for the future.”

Wales’ inexperienced squad have already been written off, but that is exactly how Gatland likes it. The problem is that any success this year might simply be foreshadowing another World Cup failure in a few years time.

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